Southwark archbishop treads fine line at Migrants Mass05 May 2015 | by Joanna Moorhead
Migrants – who are often “the exploited, the rejected and the vulnerable” – have the right to seek a better life in another part of the world; but nations also have the right to control their borders in furtherance of the common good.
This was the message from Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark when he preached at the annual Mass for Migrants at his cathedral on Monday. Immigration and the rights of migrants were, he admitted, complex questions in today’s world.
“There are no easy answers to the question of balancing the common good of resident citizens and, at the same time, reaching out and helping the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people, both in our own society and those who seek to come from other countries,” he said. “So we must pray for our politicians and our Government, both national and local, and whilst we have the right and the duty to hold them to account, we should always do so with courtesy and respect.”
Migrants, said Archbishop Smith, represented “a particular challenge” for Pope Francis because he was the pastor of a Church without frontiers. The archbishop spoke too of his distress over events in the Mediterranean, where every few days bring news of the drowning of yet more migrants hoping to find a better life across the sea.
This year’s Mass for Migrants was the tenth of its kind, and included representatives from at least 40 different ethnic Catholic communities across the UK. Slovakians, Poles, Ugandans, Tamils, Nigerians, Chinese, Portuguese, Brazilians, Argentinians, Mexicans and many more filled the cathedral to bursting point. Many of those who attended wore the national dress of their countries, and many groups carried banners to denote their heritage.
The Mass, which was concelebrated by Archbishop Smith, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and a large array of other bishops and priests, including many who were themselves from migrant communities, featured a steel band and music from around the world.
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