The comments of presidential candidate, Donald Trump, concerning Mexican people, do not gel with the experience of so many in our beloved country and in our churches in Brooklyn and Queens. One at first simply hoped that Trump was being misquoted, merely having his words being taken out of context. But this clearly was not the case. One then hoped that Trump, ever the showman, was simply engaging in negative rhetoric and would eventually draw out something positive from his comments. He did not.
If anything, his comments have distanced him from his fellow GOP contenders for the presidency, including Jeb Bush (a Catholic man who is happily married to a Mexican-born woman for many years). South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham stated: “If we don’t reject this way of thinking – clearly, without any ambiguity – we’ll have lost our way, and we’ll have lost the moral authority, in my view, to govern this great nation.” Not only should Republicans distance themselves from Trump’s inflammatory opinions, but so should people of faith.
In the Diocese of Brooklyn, the “Diocese of Immigrants,” we are blessed with the presence of our Mexican population, as well as immigrants from almost every country in the world. The Latino population in Brooklyn and Queens is not merely passing through. The people have been the backbone of many of our congregations for many years and have supplied us with examples of faith, of family, of hard work, as well as giving us a number of vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate, and religious life. Trump, a native son of Queens, should know better than to paint an entire group with a broad brush.
We Catholics in the Brooklyn Diocese must be people of welcome. Our Bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, the son of an immigrant family, has, in a special way in his priesthood and episcopacy, made the welcoming of immigrants to the Church and to the nation a special priority. A great example of this can be witnessed now at the parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Kensington. With the appointment of its new pastor, Father Ilyas Gill, a Brooklyn diocesan priest born in Pakistan, the parish began on July 5 a Mass offered on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. for people of Pakistani heritage, celebrated in the Urdu language.
When the members of the Pakistani Catholic community arrived in their new home, they were warmly welcomed not only by the pastor, who is the coordinator of ministry to Pakistanis, but by many parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary – people who are white, black, Latino – all of whom were there to support this new ministry, to welcome their new pastor and to celebrate the Catholic faith.
The word “Catholic” means “universal.” Trump’s comments cannot be embraced by people of faith, who need to be people of welcome. This past weekend, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, while on his apostolic visit to Paraguay, stated that we as Catholics must be “welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it, at times through our own fault. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, with which this land is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners.”
Bishop DiMarzio, in his address to the Center for Migration Studies in 2014, recalled a moment in his childhood when he knew he was called to the priesthood – the day when a priest stopped to talk as he worked in the yard with his grandfather. After hearing the priest and his grandfather speak in Italian, Bishop DiMarzio said he felt more confident that he could indeed become a priest. God calls all people and welcomes all people, including the immigrant. Let’s never forget this!