Welcoming Our Brothers and Sisters

February 15, 2020

The following is an excerpt from We Are One in Christ: A Pastoral Letter on Fundamentals of Christian Anthropology by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Archbishop of Indianapolis, written in 2018

Pope Francis said, “Christ urges us to welcome our brothers and sisters with our arms truly open, ready for a sincere embrace, a loving and enveloping embrace.”

This is characteristic of Pope Francis—to use vivid physical imagery to underscore his teaching. The Holy Father tells us, in effect, that Christ is not content with half-hearted gestures. Writing a check and dropping it in the mail to one of the relief agencies is a very good thing to do. But it is not enough. Along with our financial support, the pope says, Christ wants us to have warm, enthusiastic contact with our sisters and brothers who are poor and vulnerable.

That’s not easy for most of us who lead busy lives filled with work and family obligations. Still, opportunities for hands-on engagement with those in need are not hard to find if we look for them. Catholic Charities of Indianapolis has welcomed and cared for migrants and refugees for more than 42 years. And parishes throughout central and southern Indiana work hard to provide food, shelter, clothing and access to quality health care to all who are in need, including people who have left their home countries in search of a better life. Ask your pastor, or any Catholic Charities agency, how you can help. They will gladly direct you to the nearest place that will welcome your participation!

Our Church extends to all the unconditional love of Jesus. We welcome strangers, and we work to make everyone feel at home. We support our nations’ efforts to secure our borders, and to regulate the processes that govern immigration and refugee resettlement.

However, we insist that in all instances the rights of individuals and families be protected, and we place concern for human dignity above political or practical expediency. We take this responsibility so seriously that Church teaching points out that as citizens we may be obliged in conscience not to follow laws or regulations that are contrary to the fundamental rights of persons or the teaching of the Gospel (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2242).

Peace and prosperity should be available to all peoples regardless of their race, ethnic origin, and religious preferences. We should be open to all, welcoming of all and respectful of both the differences that divide us and the fundamental humanity that unites us.

Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were once refugees who fled the political tyranny and vicious brutality of King Herod. They were immigrants who spent years living in a foreign land, a situation now shared by millions of people who have left their homes desperately seeking safety and a better life.

Whatever we do to the least of these brothers and sisters, we do to Christ. Let’s share their journeys. Let’s welcome them with “a loving and enveloping embrace” in Jesus’ name.

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