In a lengthy address to the bishops of Mexico today, the Pope on his first full day of a six-day visit to the country took up the issue of immigration.
He told the prelates that he appreciated everything they are doing to confront what he called the “challenge of our age: migration.”
“There are millions of sons and daughters of the Church who today live in the diaspora or who are in transit, journeying to the north in search of new opportunities,” he said.
The Holy Father noted how many have “left behind their roots,” despite the many risks, to seek the “‘green light’ which they regard as hope.”
“So many families are separated; and integration into a supposedly ‘promised land’ is not always as easy as some believe,” he said.
The Pope told his brother prelates to follow the migrants with their hearts.
“Strengthen the communion with your brothers of the North American episcopate, so that the maternal presence of the Church can keep alive the roots of the faith of these men and women, as well as the motivation for their hope and the power of their charity.”
“I ask you to witness together that the Church is the custodian of a unifying vision of humanity and that she cannot consent to being reduced to a mere human ‘resource,’” he added.
The Pope thus pointed to a grave problem facing the Church of North America, both in Mexico and the United States: that Hispanic immigrants too often do not continue to practice their faith. According to a 2014 Pew study, nearly one-in-four Hispanic adults (24%) in the United States are now former Catholics.
In speaking to the bishops, the Pope referenced not only Mexicans who head north, but also those who pass through Mexico from Central America.
“Your efforts will not be in vain when your dioceses show care by pouring balm on the injured feet of those who walk through your territories, sharing with them the resources collected through the sacrifices of many,” he said; “the divine Samaritan in the end will enrich the person who is not indifferent to him as he lies on the side of the road.”