Monday, September 04, 2006

Holiday Message

Each year the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops [USCCB] issues a message for today. This year two issues wind themselves into a single strand: labor and immigration. President Bush had said long before today that numerous immigrants are doing work that many citizens do not and refuse to do. That is not unique to the U.S. On a visit to Japan 14 years ago I learned that Korean immigrants--some were illegals, who were not on official payrolls--did "dirty jobs," which the Japanese refused to do. (One less obvious one was dry-cleaning, which despite its name is hazardous in every country because of the vapors coming from the chemicals used to cleanse garments.)

This year's Labor Day Statement from our bishops focuses on immigration. It closes with these words of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio:
"The immigration debate this Labor Day challenges us to consider again who we are as a nation, how our economy treats all workers, how we welcome the 'strangers' among us. ...As believers, we are called to build bridges between the native born and newcomer, between legitimate concerns about security and national traditions of welcome, from fear and frustration to hope and action for a better tomorrow.

"Today, and years ago when my grandparents came from Italy, immigration is a human story of people yearning for work and longing for freedom. Immigrants come seeking to provide a decent living for their families, dreaming of a better life for their children, hoping to make a contribution. These are the deeply held American values we celebrate on Labor Day. The principles of our faith and the traditions of our nation call us to welcome those who share these values and hopes. They add vitality and energy, diversity and hope to our communities and our country. Together, we can build a better nation, a stronger economy and a more faithful Church."

Questions of "how" we achieve "a better nation, a stronger economy and a more faithful Church" are shaped by another foundational question that was posed to Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus answered that question of "who" with a well-known story of "how" (see Luke 10.21-37 and the Labor Day Statement).

[Catholic Update offers this condensation of a groundbreaking joint letter of U.S. and Mexican bishops addressing immigration.]

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