A gathering with immigrant families: ‘We have to know how to dream and then to commit'
This Saturday, at historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, where the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and adopted, and from the same podium used by Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg Address, Pope Francis reminded those gathered of the values of the founding fathers who established that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights.
With this the Argentine Pope opened a moving speech where he directly addressed the rights and responsibilities of immigrants. An issue that the 24,000 people from around the world gathered in Independence Hall understood too well. Minutes before, Alejandra Mota, an immigrant who was recently undocumented gave her testimony of fear and pain, of her broken family, with her husband wrongfully arrested, and a child growing up without them in Mexico.
“I think the Pope’s message is very important for undocumented immigrants, who need hope to keep fighting for their rights. Elected officials also have to listen to his message to take responsibility and do the best possible thing for everyone in this country. This is an invitation for everyone to grow.”
— Monsignor Hugh J. Shields from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in South Philly
““The Pope’s message is always a challenge because, as Obama said, he touches our conscience. But at the same time, it fills us with hope for a better world. We have to know how to dream and then commit to make those dreams come true.”
— Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston
The Cardinal added that the biggest challenge for the Church is to heal the wounds caused by the sexual abuses committed by the clergy. “The Holy Father has made many efforts. He created a commission and has established very clear protocols,” he said. “Especially to prevent, so we don’t repeat the past mistakes”.
Finally, the Pope asked immigrants to strengthen their traditions and identity. The biggest danger of globalization, he said, is that everyone becomes the same; it is important to keep diversity and pluralism.
“Please, don’t be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land,” Pope Francis said. And then added: “I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood.”
This was what most caught the attention of Jake Samour, Director for the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. “I interpret it as not being ashamed of our culture. Sometimes, when you come [to the United States] people tell you not to speak in Spanish. Or sometimes, you want to act as an American instead of acting the way we do. It is something I want to remember, to raise my children with our culture,” said Samour, who is originally from El Salvador but has lived in the United States the past 36 years.
“Remembering who we are, how we communicate our faith, how to share, how to receive from each other and how to feel proud of who we are,” added Adriana Visoso Valverde, director of the Instituto Fe y Vida for young Latinos.
After hearing Pope Francis, everyone seemed inspired and happy. But maybe one person was more excited than the rest: Alex López Foubert. Alex, an 8-year-old student from Cranberry, Pa., who chose the Pope as his hero and later was chosen to represent Latino families by giving the Pontiff the “Cross of Meetings.”
“I am very happy and excited,” Alex said after being with the Pope with his Mexican family. “It was an incredible moment, and a very great blessing,” said his father, Alejandro López. “And an especially great responsibility to carry this experience for all the Latino families in the United States.”
“We told him: Pope Francis, we pray for you every day,” Alex said. “And the Pope told us: Keep praying for me.” The most exciting part of this experience for Alex was that the Pope is holy. And from now on, he wants to be so too.