My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
For the past 52 years, January 1 has been designated by the Roman Pontiff as the World Day of Peace. The 2019 message of the Holy Father on this occasion is entitled, “Good Politics at the Service of Peace.” The announcement was made by the Vatican press office emphasizing that “Political responsibility belongs to every citizen and, in particular, to those that have received the mandate to protect and to govern.”
Politics is not a dirty business. Rather, politics is an esteemed vocation since it deals with the very peace that a society needs in order to function properly. Politicians are called to a sublime vocation because they are responsible for promoting the rights of all of its citizens. In his encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), St. John XXIII said, “When man is respected in his rights a sense of duty germinates in him to respect the rights of others.” Yes, when we respect the rights of others, the message is transmitted that it is a mutual responsibility and that respecting of rights creates the path for peace in our society.
Individuals who strive to govern must exercise consummate patience and have the leadership skills necessary to bring about just compromises in the political forum. When all is said and done, politics is the art of the possible which is accomplished by compromise as long as the rights of none are trampled. How important and difficult the political system is in our own day and age when collaboration seems not to be present among parties in our own country and as we see, even abroad. The same type of dissension has troubled the European Union and many other nations and confederations of nations around the world.
Beatitudes For 21st-Century Politicians
Perhaps that is why our Holy Father invoked a new set of Beatitudes for 21st-century politicians, written by the late Vietnamese Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who spent 13 years in a Communist prison. Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role; Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility; Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest; Blessed be the politician who remains consistent; Blessed be the politician who works for unity; Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change; Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening; Blessed be the politician who is without fear.
The Issue of Migration
One of the issues facing us today is the issue of migration. Just last month in December, most nations of the world gathered in Marrakech, Morocco for the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The long process of almost two years to bring together this Global Compact has been a difficult one. Its goal, however, is a noble one. That we would have safe, orderly and regular migration throughout the world, and that the unsettling phenomenon of unregulated migration would be overcome.
Stopping irregular migration is not as simple as building a wall since we need to deal with the root causes of why people are forced to migrate or are tempted to migrate without proper documentation. There is a great deal of desperation in our world today, especially among those who are in refugee situations or who are in dire economic situations. The Global Compact, which was supported by the Holy See with the special attention of Pope Francis himself, is a non-legally binding agreement. The compact is neither a convention or a treaty. Instead, the compact expressed the many universal values or objectives that nations hold. For example, to save lives, to prevent smuggling or trafficking, to provide accurate information, to facilitate fair recruitment, reduce vulnerabilities in migration, manage borders well and invest in skills development.
Unfortunately, many times the Church seems to be accused of wanting open borders. Never in all of the teaching of the Church has this ever been said, nor through its charitable activities has it encouraged people to think that undocumented means of migration is acceptable. At the same time, however, the principle must be respected that a migrant must be free to remain in his or her own country and free to leave. Respecting the right to enter into another country, however, is the difficulty we face today.
We are well aware of the situation of asylum-seeking families who have banded together in caravans in an attempt to migrate north to the United States and seek protection from their dangerous environments in Central America. This almost 1,500-mile journey normally made on foot or by whatever means they can find has captured the attention of the media and also of our politicians here in the United States.
The response to this phenomenon has been a complicated one. The basic human right to asylum which has been guaranteed through the various protocols of the United Nations is something that our country needs to respect. At the same time, an application for asylum needs to be accomplished in an orderly manner.
Claiming Asylum Is Not a Crime
The response to the caravan by our own U.S. Bishops’ Conference has stated that claiming asylum was not a crime and urged humane action and reasonable rhetoric toward those who are seeking protection. The corresponding asylum policy change regarding entry to the United States, outside of official border points, has been interpreted as not being in compliance with international law. Subsequently, the migration office of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference is working with the embassies of the countries affected by these movements in order to facilitate the possible assistance. The Bishops’ migration committee has spoken with the Custom and Border Protection representatives in an effort to better understand the problems they face and how we can assist in this humanitarian crisis.
We all know the Christmas story and the infancy narratives that tell us of the turmoil that surrounded the birth of Jesus Christ. First, Joseph and Mary could not find lodging in Bethlehem and were relegated to the place where the animals were kept and it was there that Jesus was born. Then came the persecution by King Herod which prompted the Holy Family to take refuge in Egypt. We cannot forget the massacre of the Holy Innocents that took place as Herod felt threatened by a king who would be a challenger to his reign.
As we approach the Feast of the Epiphany, we recognize that the Wise Man came to worship the infant Jesus from afar and that these strangers recognized in the newborn infant the Lord of the Universe. Perhaps it is a good lesson for us as we put out into the deep in trying to recognize in the strangers that are around us the living presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.