Cardinal, Boston mayor voice support for immigrants at Mass

EAST BOSTON -- Speaking in front of a packed congregation at one of the Archdiocese of Boston's largest Hispanic parishes Feb. 5, Boston's cardinal, mayor and police commissioner delivered a message of solidarity with the city's immigrant community.

Days earlier, on Feb. 2, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans were joined by Gov. Charlie Baker for a meeting with leaders of the Boston-area Muslim community at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to offer a similar expression of support following the Jan. 27 executive order by President Trump temporarily blocking entry into the U.S. for refugees and those from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Prior to the start of Mass, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley addressed the assembly of almost 1,000 mainly Latin American immigrants.

"Here in the Archdiocese of Boston we are blessed with more than 100 parishes with communities who celebrate in other languages," he said in Spanish. "It truly reflects what is the Church, which is catholic: universal, where many races, languages and peoples all come together because we all form one body, one Church."

Speaking at a lectern temporarily placed in front of scaffolding covering the main altar, he praised the pastor, Father Thomas Domurat, for the work he has done renovating the church.

"When this church was built, all the faithful were immigrants, poor -- like my family, like Mayor Walsh's family -- who came from Ireland at a time when there were so many dying of hunger," Cardinal O'Malley said. "Your work to beautify and build this church is for the future -- where 100 years from now people will come with their families from all parts of the world to worship here."

"I know many are worried about the recent atmosphere in our country, which is why I wrote this letter," he explained. The cardinal then read from his Feb. 1 letter on immigration that he requested be read at all the ethnic community Masses and mentioned or summarized at all English-language Masses.

"Having spent my entire priesthood working with people newly arrived from other countries, many of whom were undocumented workers fleeing the wars and violence of Central America, I have seen up close the pain and suffering visited upon families who are forced by circumstances to live in the shadows, always fearful of discovery, and economic ruin," he said, reading from the text of his letter.

"In light of the present uncertainties and challenges that immigrants throughout the archdiocese are experiencing, I wish to address a few words of support and solidarity to the Catholics of our immigrant communities in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston."

The cardinal acknowledged that many Americans are "frustrated" by the current immigration process and "fearful" of continued acts of terrorism on American soil, but he noted that "we are a nation of immigrants and that we have an established history of assimilating people of different languages, religions, ethnicities into the magnificent mosaic that is America."

"Just as we are a country of immigrants, so too we are a Church of immigrants," the cardinal continued, adding that the church in the United States has "always stood with people who have come to this country from other lands."

The cardinal stressed the continued commitment from the U.S. Bishops to work for "comprehensive immigration reform and for a welcoming policy towards those who are fleeing persecution and violence."

In concluding the letter, the cardinal addressed families "in the most precarious situations," stressing that "your Church stands with you and will work hard to promote solutions to the challenges that you face."

Following Cardinal O'Malley's remarks, Mayor Walsh also spoke to the assembly.

"We stand united," the mayor said. "We stand united in where we are going in this country. We stand united with you."

The mayor spoke of his childhood, growing up in an Irish-Catholic family in Dorchester where he was taught to pray and to listen whenever he faced a problem.

"We listen when people are hurting," he said, adding in Spanish, "Somos uno, Boston!" as the congregation broke into spontaneous applause.

"We are one city. We stand together. We are a special city," Walsh said. He noted that 28 percent of the city's inhabitants are foreign-born and 43 percent have at least one foreign-born parent.

"Our obligation is to make sure that we never turn our back on each other," he stressed. "Boston and American are a place of dreams and values," the mayor continued. "And though it may seem a little that we have lost our way, we will come back."

Following the mayor's address, Boston Police Commissioner Evans told the congregation, "The Boston Police stands with all of you."

"We are not the immigration police," he said. "We are a community police."

Echoing the mayor's sentiment, Evans stressed "We are one Boston."

"We truly are a community policing agency, no matter what happens in Washington," he declared. "We are here for you, so please don't be afraid of us."

Also in attendance were City Council member Sal Lamattina, State Representative Adrian Madaro and East Boston area police Captain Kelley McCormick.

During his homily, the cardinal spoke of the need to "create a civilization of love."

"Jesus has shown us how it's done," he said, stressing the need to be witnesses of God in our world.

"Pope Francis reminds us that God put us on this earth to take care of each other," the cardinal said. "We must reflect His light and His love in our actions, in our words and in our example."

Following the Mass, Father Domurat, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer parish publicly thanked the cardinal for his support to the immigrant community.

"You are a light shining in our archdiocese, in our state, in our country," Father Domurat said.

For East Boston resident Cesar Martinez, the message given by Cardinal O'Malley, Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans were "a breath of fresh air," he said.

"It is very good to see that these three powerful men are really behind us. It makes me feel supported," Martinez said.

Martinez, who came to this country in the 1990s from El Salvador, said he felt empowered and called to help those who, unlike himself, are here without proper documentation.

"The same way I was once the newly arrived," he said, "now it's my turn to speak up for those who are coming to this country."

Lynn resident Olga Hulse, a native of Honduras, also was impressed by the messages expressed before the Mass.

"I feel very supported by the cardinal," she said. "And the words of the mayor and police commissioner were very strong, very caring."