Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Justice For All: Thoughts For July 4th

By FATHER JOHN KIERAN, Reflection | Published July 17, 2008  | En Español

Dear brothers and sisters:

I am glad to be with you on this July 4th weekend. American people everywhere have been celebrating Independence Day to mark the anniversary of our beginnings.

July 4th is like September 16th in Mexico, when everyone celebrates their national history and tradition. National holidays are the occasion to recognize what is good and honorable in one’s home country.

July 4th is the anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence. At this time people like to quote from our Declaration of Independence and urge people to live by the principles enshrined in that document.

It begins with a statement: “All people are created equal.” Hence our laws affirm that every person is equal before God, no matter who you are; no matter what country you were born in; no matter what language you speak. American law says: “You are equal before God.”

Sadly our country has not always lived by its laws. For too long black people were not given the freedom and opportunities enjoyed by white people.

You who are Mexican know and feel the ugly and unfair discrimination being conducted against immigrant people.

Sadly you hear American people speak of immigrants as the “enemy” and “criminals.”

I am an immigrant like most of you. I resent being called “the enemy.” I am not a “criminal.”

I am proud that our Catholic Church here has stood up for the rights of minority people. Here in Atlanta the Catholic Church was the first organization to integrate its schools. We accepted black students when others would not.

In recent years our national bishops have repeatedly spoken out on behalf of our immigrant people. The bishops have condemned injustice against the immigrants and called for a fair and balanced solution to the migration problem.

In 2000 our bishops published a pastoral letter, “Welcoming the Stranger,” urging that we be more welcoming to new immigrant people. The letter says: We are to treat people as Jesus teaches. We are to respect the dignity of every person … and welcome each other as Jesus would welcome people.

“To walk in solidarity with newcomers to our country… to live out our catholicity as a Church, the Church of the twenty-first century will be, as it has always been, a church of many cultures, languages and traditions … yet one, as God is one—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

This statement of our bishops clearly states who we are called to be. We Catholic people are to be like Jesus … in word and in deed.

We are to reach out to others as he did.

We are to help the poor.

We are to welcome the stranger.

We are to live his motto: Treat people as you would have them treat you.

Archbishop Gregory has issued a pastoral letter about Catholic teaching and immigration. His pastoral letter outlines Catholic teachings on this issue and calls for wisdom and fairness in the reformulation of laws.

I quote: “We, the Catholic bishops, … believe that U.S. immigration policy should not only protect the human rights and dignity of newcomers but also provide a legal and secure means of entry for prospective immigrants and people seeking asylum.”

Our Catholic teaching clearly states that every human person has an innate dignity. That dignity is given by God. Everyone must respect the dignity of other persons.

Catholic teachings uphold the dignity of all persons regardless of whether they are black or white, Anglo or Latino, rich or poor.

May God bless all as we strive to live the teachings of Jesus.

Father John Kieran is pastor of St. Pius X Church in Conyers.