By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) — San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller in a recent homily railed on smugglers as well as the injustices toward immigrants, referring to the June 27 deaths of 53 people in a sweltering cargo section of an abandoned semitruck near San Antonio as they were being smuggled into the country.
In a text published in the online San Antonio Report July 1 of a homily he delivered during a memorial Mass for the dead immigrants at San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral June 30, he placed blame on the “traders of death who consider lives as merchandise.”
But he also urged the “lay faithful to create the political incentives for our elected representatives to fulfill their duty to pass comprehensive immigration reform” and cut down on such incidents that take place because there are few viable paths to migrate safely and legally.
The archbishop, who has ministered to migrant workers, visited some of those who survived the deadly trek in the sweltering semitrailer without water or air to cool down as they traveled in temperatures that topped 100 degrees. It’s still unclear how long they were inside the trailer.
“Anyone who is not outraged is complicit to at least some degree,” said the archbishop, according to the text. “They are God’s children. We grieve the loss of these immigrant brothers and sisters because they are members of God’s family.”
But there are people out there who are not outraged.
The prelate has tweeted his thoughts on the situation, sometimes an update on the family of one of the survivors, happy that their loved one survived, and in turn has received some unsympathetic comments, often by nameless Twitter users.
“Just because he’s hurt sneaking across the border doesn’t mean he gets to stay,” responded @tarrdog July 3 on Twitter.
Archbishop Gustavo said in his homily, in a comment that seemed targeted at the smugglers who abandoned the dead and dying migrants, that “the exploitation of the poor, and in particular of migrants — who flee dramatic situations in search of opportunities and hope — is particularly grave.”
“The carnage by abandonment — whether intentional or negligent — of our 53 brothers and sisters … is one of those sins that cry to heaven,” he said.
“However, it is not permissible for anyone in our society to remain idle and look the other way in the face of the humanitarian crisis caused (by) unregulated migration,” he said. “We all have a role to play in solidarity with people fleeing in search of opportunities for development.”
He urged Catholics to demand political leaders to act on immigration reform.
“Even though it is everyone’s responsibility, it falls primarily on the lay faithful to create the political incentives for our elected representatives to fulfill their duty to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.
“The Catholic lay faithful must assume their baptismal duty to sanctify social life by organizing it according to the values of the Gospel,” he said. “Everyone must do their bit to be part of the solution.”
He said that Catholic social teaching urges lay Catholics to take part in civic engagement and the “shared responsibility to uphold human dignity and to pursue the common good.”
In the case of immigration, he said it was a natural phenomenon that arises from the supply and demand for labor and security and urged others to listen to the plight of migrants.
“It does us good to hear their experiences beyond headlines and editorials,” he said. “As much as possible, I suggest listening firsthand to the stories of immigrants. It is not uncommon to realize that they have traveled challenging spiritual journeys throughout their physical exodus.
“They are a great gift for receiving countries, like ours, which owes its greatness largely to its immigrant spirit.”
In entrusting the souls of the dead migrants to God, he asked that their lives not be lost in vain.
“This tragedy must prevent others,” and quoting Pope Francis, he added, “may the Lord open our hearts so these misfortunes never happen again.”