The familiar words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me," speak compellingly to us today as we witness the plight of the more than 50,000 unaccompanied children fleeing to our country to escape the violence and desperate poverty of their homelands. Here in Maryland the Catholic Church stands ready to answer Jesus' call to embrace the needs of these children and their families as we offer our welcome and assistance.
We cannot turn our back on these children. They are fleeing to us because they know there are warm hearts and helping hands in America – and for so many immigrants, a home in the Catholic Church, no matter where their journey takes them. We must not prove them wrong.
We also cannot ignore the complexities faced by national and local elected officials in determining a just and sustainable response to this humanitarian crisis. A delegation of U.S. Bishops traveled to Central America in November 2013 to learn firsthand about the conditions causing this crisis, and have developed a resource that provides helpful background on this issue titled, Mission to Central America: the Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States, available at www.usccb.org.
Eradicating the root causes prompting this crisis - most especially the uncontrolled and terrifying violence of criminal gangs - demands challenging international solutions. Ensuring that local communities in the United States are equipped to provide immigrant children and their families appropriate services, whether on a temporary or more long-term basis, will require a significant increase in available financial and human resources, and unprecedented cooperation among government and religious and nonprofit agencies.
We support efforts at the federal level to increase funding to provide the social and legal services necessary to serve the children seeking asylum. We too share a concern about the risk in sending these children back to uncertain or even dangerous situations in the lands they have fled.
We are also grateful that Governor O'Malley and other elected officials in Maryland have expressed a willingness to welcome to our state children who need assistance. Through our Catholic Charities and other social service agencies, our parishes, and the generosity of the many parishioners who call us daily asking how they can help, we will do all within our capacity to offer our longstanding expertise and support in helping these children and their families. Providing such help is no different than what the Church has done without fail for centuries in Maryland to help those in need.
As our national and local governments continue to grapple with this difficult situation, we are hopeful that partisan differences will not stand in the way of finding a just and humane response to this urgent need. We pray that our country will be able to look back proudly at how we answered this call, and ask God to touch the hearts and minds of the people of Maryland and throughout America with compassion and generosity. Most importantly, we entrust these children to God's providence, for we know "You do see, for you behold misery and sorrow, taking them in your hands. On you the unfortunate man depends; of the fatherless you are the helper" (Psalm 10).
Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church's public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials. The Conference represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. Approximately 1.2 million Catholics live in Maryland.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore is led by Archbishop William E. Lori. The Archdiocese of Washington is led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl. The Diocese of Wilmington is led by Bishop Francis Malooly.