Remember when Bush blundered on his welcome to Queen Elizabeth, then said that she "gave me a look that only a mother could give a child," and concluded by winking at her? Well, he didn't do much better with the Pope, cheerleading his speech with a "awesome speech Your Holiness." At least he got the title right.
I want to conclude some thoughts on the Pope and immigration before his important UN speech today. He has said at least three things on immigration so far: comments on the airplane on the way over, comments to the USCCB, and comments during his homily at the Nationals stadium.
First, on the plane:
It seems to me that we have to distinguish between measures to be taken immediately, and longer-term solutions. The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate. We all have to work for this objective, that social development is sufficient so that citizens are able to contribute to their own future.On this point, I want to speak with the President, because above all the United States must help countries develop themselves. Doing so is in the interests of everyone, not just this country but the whole world, including the United States.In the short term, it’s very important above all to help the families. This is the primary objective, to ensure that families are protected, not destroyed. Whatever can be done, must be done. Naturally, we have to do whatever’s possible against economic insecurity, against all the forms of violence, so that they can have a worthy life.
Benedict emphasizes two thing: the necessity of a long-term solution, one that would require the United States to help other countries develop themselves and would remove the shackles of dependence that it continues to hold over other countries. John Paul never grew tired of asking the U.S. to forgive the debt of poorer countries, a plea that the U.S. decided to ignore. The immigration problem has a lot to do with America's foreign policy in Central America. Until this is acknowledged, the problem will continue.
Second, care for families. The Catholic Worker, along with the Bishops have made this their primary focus. Benedict has spoken more about the family than any other topic recent polls show. In his speech on the World Day of Peace, he located the family as the first place of peace. He has also here again pointed to the family as most important component of society: not the individual and not the State. It seems that discussion about immigration often center around one or the other. Liberal liberals - or Democrats - emphasize the individual and their right to make a living. Conservative liberals - or Republicans - emphasize the needs of the Nation-State and its members. Benedict is emphasizing the family, asking that the needs and peace of the family remain at the fore of this conversation. As he says, "Whatever can be done, must be done."
Second, to the Bishops:
Brother Bishops, I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" (cf. Sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty). These are the people whom America has made her own.
Welcome, we need to welcome.
Third, in his homily at National's Stadium:
The Church in the United States, welcoming to its bosom many of your immigrant children, has grown thanks to the vitality of the witness of faith of the faithful of the Spanish language. For this, the Lord calls to to keep contributing to the future of the Church in this country and the spread of the Gospel. Only if you are united to Christ and with each other will your evangelical witness be credible and grow even more in boundless fruits of peace and reconciliation in the midst of a world so marked by divisions and conflicts.The Church expectes much of you. May the generosity of your gifts never be lacking. "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give" (Mt 10:8).
He finally acknowledges the great debt that American Catholicism owes to immigration. I find the Scripture citation interesting. Just as you have received freely, by entering this country, so give of your deep spiritual life freely also. There is an exchange here. Economic benefits are repaid by cultural and spiritual ones. I tend to agree.