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Cardinal Sean O’Malley at the Border Mass. Credit. USCCB

Cardinal Sean O’Malley at the Border Mass. Credit. USCCB

During Lent we’re reminded of Jesus’ period in the desert which recalls the Israelites’ long journey through the wilderness led by Moses.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley went out into the modern-day wilderness which stretches along the US-Mexico border 1 April. It is a place which has seen suffering, rape and abuse. A place where people enter on a journey which they hope will end in a better life, but more often than not it ends in desperation, suffering and sometimes death.

Cardinal O’Malley of Boston was on the border with a group of US bishops to celebrate mass with migrants who had travelled to the Mexican border in the hope of entering the US. In a very powerful gesture he gave communion through the iron bars which held back the migrants.

In his homily the Cardinal said, “We come here today to be a neighbour and to find a neighbour in each of the suffering people who risk their lives and at times lose their lives in the desert.”

Catholic leaders in the US want Congress to understand that immigration across the Mexican border is an urgent humanitarian issue. During his first meeting with Pope Francis last week at the Vatican, US President Barack Obama expressed his interest in getting immigration reform through Congress.

Almost 12 million immigrants live illegally in the US, around half of them are from Mexico. Thousands of people are abused or die each year in the desert terrain while trying to cross illegally into the United States along the 2,000-mile plus border with Mexico.

Just a few days before the cardinal’s visit to Nogales, Arizona, 370 migrant children were found in the Mexican desert. They had apparently been abandoned by traffickers paid to take them to the United States. The youngest was nine years old.

Caritas works with the US Bishops’ Conference to advocate on the issue of unaccompanied child migrants. It focuses on assessing the child’s best interests and finding a durable solution.

The Cardinal quoted Pope Francis in his homily: “The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people.”

During the Mass, the clergymen laid a wreath at the border wall to remember those who have died. It followed a similar event in Lampedusa, Italy, last year when the pope threw a wreath into the Mediterranean Sea to remember migrants who have died attempting to reach Europe.

“Here in the desert of Arizona, we come to mourn the countless immigrants who risk their lives at the hands of the coyotes and the forces of nature to come to the United States,” said Cardinal O’Malley.

“Every year four hundred bodies are found here at the border, bodies of men, women and children seeking to enter the United States. Those are only the bodies that are found…”

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