Calling for the compassionate treatment of young children who have migrated to the United States from Central America and Mexico, and most recently Afghanistan, Bishop Robert Gruss is encouraging people of faith and good will to put aside political differences and focus on the needs of the children.
“For so many of us, our hearts are torn as we learn of unaccompanied children who are fleeing all kinds of trauma, only to find themselves caught in the middle of strong emotions, hostile attitudes and opposing political positions,” Bishop Gruss said.
In the Diocese of Saginaw, there are conversations underway regarding a youth refugee center in Alma, which would shelter children who are between 12 and 17 years old and who crossed the border alone. The shelter would operate with federal funding and the children would remain there for an average of 40 days as staff work to reunite them with their families. A request to rezone a vacant nursing home to be converted into the shelter was denied in early August. The issue will now go before Alma’s city commission for a final decision.
“Priests from within our diocese have celebrated Mass for children who arrived at the border alone and were being sheltered at a center in the Diocese of Kalamazoo,” Bishop Gruss said. “We have learned we are no longer needed there at this time, as the shelter will now be receiving children refugees from Afghanistan and other organizations will be called upon for ministry. However, we stand ready to serve. We are called to respond with love and compassion to the needs of those around us, especially children and vulnerable adults who are dependent on our care and compassion.”
The Catholic Church globally and here in this country continues to be a voice for unaccompanied minors and refugees, affirming their sacredness in the eyes of God and calling for their dignified treatment. The Church also continues to advocate for a comprehensive immigration policy.
“We can understand frustration over the lack of comprehensive immigration policy, and also understand that people of good will may hold differing opinions regarding how to appropriately address immigration,” Bishop Gruss said.
In April 2021, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services issued a briefing on the United States and Mexico border situation. The report noted several of the influential causes that drive this human migration crisis. Among the causes listed were the existence of widespread corruption, civil unrest, human rights abuses and violence, including homicides. El Salvador and Honduras have the highest per-capita murder rates in the world, and Mexico had record homicide levels in 2020. Another influential cause has been the devastating impact of hurricanes, like Eta and Iota, on Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Unaccompanied Minors - Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay - Green Bay, WI (catholiccharitiesgb.org)
Recently, the USCCB launched a new initiative inspired by Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti to counter polarization and division in our country. The announcement states that this initiative, Civilize It: A Better Kind of Politics, asks Catholics to respond with charity, clarity and creativity. It is based on Fratelli Tutti and on other reflections by the Holy Father. The materials aim to help Catholics and others of good will to cultivate a culture of encounter, root perspectives in truth, justice and solidarity and seek collaborative action for the common good. USCCB Launches Initiative Inspired by Fratelli Tutti to Counter Polarization and Division | USCCB
“As Christians, love must animate our response to the needs of vulnerable children,” Bishop Gruss said. “I call upon all people of faith and good will to focus on the needs of the children who, in their innocence, come to us seeking help and safety.”