During Pope Francis’ visit to Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city on the border with the United States, thousands affiliated with Jesuit institutions across the United States echoed his call for a compassionate response toward migrants by holding masses, erecting “mock border walls”, and signing a letter to members of Congress.
Boston College, Creighton University, and Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, California were among a number of schools, parishes, and other ministries that held masses in a display of solidarity with Pope Francis’ mass at Benito Juarez Stadium on February 17.
This was part of the “Pope2Border” campaign coordinated by the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN), a Catholic social justice advocacy organisation working primarily with Jesuit institutions.
Other Pope2Border activities included in-district visits with members of Congress, community dialogues on migration policy, and building “mock border walls” to bring awareness to the plight of migrants. ISN also plans to send the US Congress a letter with 5,000 signatures urging an end to US support for Mexican interceptions of Central Americans fleeing violence, as well as an end to border militarisation and other controversial immigration enforcement actions. As of February 27, the letter had 1,974 signatures online.
At Ciudad Juarez, Pope Francis walked up onto a specially built platform facing the border fence between Mexico and the United States. He paused, blessed himself and the hundreds of people gathered on the US side of the Rio Grande embankments, and after a moment of prayer, left for the Ciudad fairgrounds, where he celebrated the last mass of his five-day tour of Mexico.
During his homily at the mass, Francis called for “open hearts” and recognition that the thousands fleeing their homelands are often victims of the worst forms of exploitation.
“They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations,” he said. “Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are ‘cannon fodder’, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs, not to mention the tragic predicament of the many women whose lives have been unjustly taken.”
Earlier the pope had asked policymakers north of the border to stop looking at people from Mexico, Central America and further south who are migrating north seeking a better life as problems or numbers, but as individuals, each with a story to tell, each with a different drama propelling them into the north and its uncertain welcome and future.
Pope Francis’ trip and the Pope2Border campaign came amid a heated 2016 presidential race in the United States, with vigorous disagreements surrounding migrants.
“In an election year, this is a strategic appeal to our lawmakers to remember the human dignity of those who are forced to migrate, many of whom live and work in our midst,” said ISN executive director Christopher Kerr. [Jesuit Refugee Service North America, America Magazine, Vatican Radio]
For more information on Pope2Border, click here