Immigration has always been an issue very important to Irish-born Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, Kevin Farrell. He has met with unaccompanied immigrant minors in immigration court, consistently addressed the media and written several articles relating to immigration. In multiple press statements, he has affirmed the Catholic teaching that immigration is not a matter of laws or foreign policy, but of protecting people and their dignity, particularly children, in an effort to move beyond polarization.
In a statement released earlier this week commenting on images of a drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee, Farrell addressed the global poverty and immigration crisis by attacking the media’s idea of the “invisible poor.” He said the poor are not invisible, but rather that “we just avoid looking at them.”
He then quoted Pope Francis, who described that complacent attitude as “global indifference.” In this region, Farrell explained, the most visible symbol of poverty is a beggar on the side of the road, but the faithful must be aware of the millions of refugees seeking entrance to many countries globally in attempts to escape their turbulent homelands. Most presently publicized are the Syrian refugees in Hungary and Turkey, who are seeking entrance to European countries. The pope called the situation “a crime that is an offence to the whole of humanity.”
However, Farrell and Pope Francis were not the only leaders compelled to act on behalf of the refugees as a result of the tragic images. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey severely chastised the European Union for “turning the Mediterranean into a grave for immigrants” by adopting an attitude of unconcern. While the EU argued over logistics, developing countries like Lebanon and Jordan opened the borders for fleeing refugees. After this criticism, Germany and Austria allowed the entrance of immigrants on Friday, Sept. 4. Thousands of refugees poured through border checkpoints by bus, train or even foot. Many walked between eight and nine hours in pouring rain to reach the borders of the two countries. European citizens provided supplies such as food, blankets and strollers along the path to Austria.
The welcoming attitude of Germany and Austria is essentially the same model Farrell encouraged all the faithful to employ.
Farrell used Leviticus 19:34 as a blueprint for his charitable ideology: “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.”
The clergy in Austria and Germany supported the European governments’ decision to open their borders. In fact, Cardinal Reinhard Marx and Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm greeted refugees as they exited their trains, wishing them all the blessings of God as they began their new lives in Europe.
On Sunday, Pope Francis called on Catholics to welcome refugees in their sanctuaries and parishes, while also praising the decision of the welcoming governments. The newspaper requested comment and was directed to a blog post from Farrell, released Sept. 8, in which he praised the actions of Europe and the pope.
“The good news is that not only borders but hearts have been opened to those seeking sanctuary,” Farrell said in the blog post.
“[Do not] overlook those invisible poor who live around the corner or on the other side of town; those who go to bed hungry every night; those who are abused physically, sexually and emotionally; those who are alone and helpless, whose lives are lived in fear,” Farrell said. “Reach out [your] hands in loving assistance in Christ’s name. I pray that you will be moved to help those desperate ones, whether they are Catholic or not, because we are all precious children of God. Give them hope.”