Embrace All Migrants, Cardinal Tells London Parishes
posted on 27 April 2006
London’s Catholic parishes need to embrace migrants whatever their legal status, the Archbishop of Westminster writes in an article published in The Tablet this week.
“Illegal immigration is not something the Church can approve of or encourage. But our Gospel mandate is to assist strangers, whoever they are, and meanwhile to urge that the rights of undocumented workers be respected,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor writes.
Mass for Migrant Workers
Next Monday 1 May, the bishops of London’s three Catholic dioceses – Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood – will concelebrate a Mass for migrant workers at Westminster Cathedral on the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. The Mass – with parts and readings in different languages including Vietnamese, Polish and Spanish - will reflect the changing face of London’s Catholic Church.
In his homily, the Cardinal will tell migrants that “as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, you are Londoners.”
More than 2,000 people are expected to attend the Mass for Workers, which begins at 0945. It will be followed at 1130 by a rally in the cathedral piazza to launch a new Workers’ Association, and to urge employers to pay a “living wage” to workers. The living wage – an idea strong in Catholic social teaching - was recently endorsed by London’s Mayor following a campaign by London Citizens.
The living wage is the necessary minimum for a human standard of living in the capital. The Mayor has set the the living wage at £6.70, where the national minimum wage is £5.05.
The rally will be attended by trade union and faith leaders, including Jack Dromey, deputy general-secretary of the TGWU; the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie; and the canon theologian of Westminster Abbey, Nicholas Sagovsky.
The Mass, the first of its kind, is organised with the support of London Citizens, a community-based organisation which includes many Catholic churches as members. Among those attending will be the papal nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, and the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch Gregorios.
Catholic Migrants in London
Tens of thousands of practising Catholic migrants have arrived in Britain’s capital, notably from central and eastern Europe following the accession of the new EU states in May 2004. About 90 per cent of the capital’s low-paid jobs are performed by migrants – often on very low wages.
Migrant workers make up an ever larger proportion of Catholics in London, which currently has more than ethnic chaplaincies pastoring to their needs. The tide of newcomers has buoyed Mass attendance figures in the capital’s parishes in recent years, and led to higher numbers for many years of new Catholics and priestly vocations.
In his Tablet article, the Cardinal recognises the need for ethnic chaplaincies as “a staging post, a path into the wider Church”. But he warns against “two parallel Churches in London: one for Londoners, one for foreigners.”
“Our Church is Catholic,” he writes. “It is not British or Irish or black. As migrants settle and find work, it is to be hoped that they move into local parishes, and there find a warm welcome.”
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor quotesPope John Paul II’s 1993 message for World Migration Day: “In the Church no one is a stranger, and the Church is not foreign to anyone, anywhere.” For the Church is “a sacrament of unity and thus a sign and binding force for the whole human race.”
The Cardinal says London ’s increasingly diverse parishes “offer a glimpse of what the future of London can be – places where our new multiracial and multicultural society is being forged.” This is a Church, he writes, “born from Pentecost”.
While every country has a right to restrict immigration and while the Church does not encourage illegal immigration, “our Gospel mandate is to assist strangers, whoever they are, and meanwhile to urge that the rights of undocumented workers be respected,” the Cardinal says .
'Living Wage' Rally
At the rally Living Wage Employer Awards will be given by the Chair of London Citizens, Revd. Paul Regan, to employers who have signed up to the living wage, among them KPMG, IPPR, and Queen Mary College.
London Citizens grew out of ten years of organising and campaigning by TELCO (The East London Communities Organisation), whose founding assembly was attended by the late Cardinal Basil Hume and the late Bishop Victor Guazzelli.
Neil Jameson, executive director of London Citzens, said he was proud to be involved in the May Day for Migrants.
“We hope that the messages of hope and courage combined with the calls for solidarity and organising which will be reflected in the liturgy and rally will encourage other Roman Catholic congregations and schools to join us and add their power and people to our work for the common good and for social justice,” he said.