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What the Church Teaches About Immigration Policy View Comments
By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas

Amilcar Ramirez weeps as he holds a U.S. flag at a May Day rally in Washington May 1, 2010.

EMOTIONS FLARE UP at the mention of immigration. People feel strongly about the issue on all sides. People express their opinion on Web sites, in blogs, at rallies and in phone calls to their legislators.

Like other bishops, I have received many e-mails, calls and letters, mostly voicing anger about my involvement with the issue. Certainly, attitudes toward immigration guide the decisions of some voters, especially in my state of Arizona.

As people of faith, it is critical that we understand the complexities of immigration. As people of faith, it is critical that we have opportunities to discuss the issue so that we can better understand
the Church’s concern and involvement. As people of faith, we need to share our attitudes and feelings and—as hard as it is sometimes—we need to listen.

Why, then, is the Church involved in the immigration issue? There are three broad, or overarching, reasons. In this article, we’ll explore the following: 1) how Scripture and Catholic teaching see and understand immigration; 2) immigration’s impact on the life of the Church—our parish life, our programs, our growth and diversity; and 3) the moral issues that the Church is called to address in the broader society.

Let’s start with a discussion of Sacred Scripture.


Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas heads the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona. He also serves as the chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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