Jesus and Mary: Stay Outta Farmers Branch

You know who might not have found a manger in Farmers Branch? Hey, don't yell at us. That's what Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann says.

During a special mass Sunday at the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, the Bishop of Dallas defined his stance on the increasingly bitter and polarizing immigration tug-of-war. Standing in the airy cathedral surrounded by arches and stained glass, a framed painting of the La Virgen de Guadalupe behind him, Bishop Charles Grahmann used both English and Spanish to welcome the few hundred parishioners who had braved the rain.

"We come together from many different countries and backgrounds to celebrate today," he said in clear Spanish, opening with a frank and passionate homily in honor of the Roman Catholic Church's World Day for Immigrants and Refugees. Jesus was a persecuted migrant, Grahmann said, and the Hebrews who escaped slavery and wandered for 40 years were refugees. "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you, for you too were once aliens," he quoted from the Bible. The bishop's own family had come to "Texas, of all places," to fulfill their dreams, he said, and they were welcomed.

"People have a right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families," he said. "A country has the right to regulate its borders -- but it must do so with justice and mercy." He added that immigrants come here "to escape poverty and persecution, and we've often said that we need them to do jobs that others aren't willing to do, or not willing to do at the price being paid. So this migration becomes a reality, and to some, a threat."

Then he mentioned the area's most controversial fight over illegal immigration (aside, perhaps, from Pizza Patr�n's taking pesos, the subject of a story in today's New York Times).

"I wonder if Jesus and Mary would find a place in Farmers Branch?" he asked. "They probably wouldn't. They'd probably say, 'You can't live here.' We must proclaim a message of hope and welcome. The U.S. was founded by refugees and inhabited since then by immigrants. Many have adopted a siege mentality, but as a community of faith, we judge ourselves by the way we treat the most vulnerable around us."

A prayer card inserted in the missals exhorted Christian hospitality for migrants "who labor to bring food to our tables," refugees, victims of human trafficking and asylum-seekers "imprisoned for fleeing without documents."

The cathedral usually has separate English and Spanish masses. But on Sunday, church leaders combined the two. The crowd was largely Hispanic, dotted with Anglo and African-American families.

"It would have been easy for us to have our own celebration, but it's not just about us, it's about all of us," says Father Orlando Cardozo, a parochial vicar at the church who's originally from Colombia. "Today we're trying to put the two communities together." --Megan Feldman

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky