Paris’ Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois asked about 1,500 worshippers gathered at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris on Nov. 15 to be “messengers of hope in the heart of human suffering.”
He was celebrating a special Mass in memory of the victims of the horrific attacks that left at least 129 people dead in the city of love two days earlier, Catholic News Service reported.
The cardinal went on to say that the terrorists succeed if their actions shake Christians’ hope founded on faith in Christ and on a belief that all of history, including moments of suffering, is in God’s hands. The appropriate response to the “barbaric savagery” of the terrorists, he said, is “to demonstrate additional trust in our fellow men and their dignity.”
From the other side of the Atlantic, one can see, it takes great courage and even greater faith to demand so much of oneself and one’s companions, who have been so brutally shaken.
But this cardinal embraced his faith, one that always holds Easter on the horizon. And so should we, even as politicians try to tell us we ought to turn a cold shoulder to people in desperate need.
Governors around the United States, including Kentucky’s Governor-elect Matt Bevin, say they intend to shut down resettlement of Syrian refugees. Other political leaders have suggested we only welcome Christian refugees. U.S. lawmakers are proposing legislation to curb the federal program responsible for refugee resettlement.
Their actions, combined with the 24-hour newscycle, have incited fear in communities around the country.
While that fear may be understandable at first glance, a bit of research shows that refugee resettlement involves a long and careful vetting process. Syrian refugees coming to the United States right now have been on waiting lists for 18 to 24 months while they were investigated by both the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the U.S.
Speaking on behalf of the U.S. bishops Nov. 16, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz confirmed the church’s commitment to continue aiding refugees.
“We at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities, we are always open to helping families who come into the United States in need of help,” he said at a news conference. “We have that tradition of doing it and we’re going to contribute.”
Among Christians, that tradition is rooted in the first days of Christ’s life — when he and his family were refugees.
Following Christ has never been easy. It was radical in his time. And so it still is today. Fear often stands in the way of our discipleship. We are called to something difficult, that requires courage and sacrifice.
Catholic Charities of Louisville, which administers the federal resettlement program in Kentucky, reported last week that about a quarter of the 800 refugees slated to be resettled in Kentucky next year would likely be Syrian. That was before the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.
Deacon Lucio Caruso, who works at Catholic Charities, said he gave a homily at the Church of the Epiphany on the subject of Syrian refugees Nov. 15. He was in the midst of explaining that these refugees “are the victims of the very same evil” that attacked France, when a question rose in his mind — a question he said that came from the Holy Spirit: “Where do my people go?”
“Yes, evil can get into this flow of people,” Caruso said. “That can happen. That doesn’t negate the reality that these people are fleeing. Where do my people go?
“We have to be an oasis of mercy,” he said, quoting Pope Francis. “We cannot stop doing that in spite (of the fact) that evil can affect and infect.
There’s always a risk — anytime you do something good. We try to be wise, but that doesn’t mean we can no longer be an oasis of mercy.”
On Dec. 8, the same day Kentucky’s new governor takes office, the Catholic Church around the world will begin an extraordinary jubilee Holy Year of Mercy. Let’s begin by showing God’s mercy to our brothers and sisters fleeing for their lives. Let’s become messengers of hope.
We can begin by calling our lawmakers, as the U.S. bishops asked us to do earlier this week, and asking elected officials to continue welcoming refugees.