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Cardinal supports use of Mass. military bases to house immigrant children

Cardinal O'Malley distributes Communion through the U.S.-Mexico border fence at a Mass celebrated in Nogales, Ariz. in April. (Pilot file photo/ George Martell, Pilot Media Group)

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BRAINTREE -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley was among the local clergy who joined Governor Deval Patrick at a press conference, July 18, when the governor announced that two Massachusetts military bases could be used to house some of the influx of children coming to the United States over the border with Mexico.

At the request of President Barack Obama, Patrick said he would make available Camp Edwards on Cape Cod and Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee to potentially house some of the immigrant children while they await processing by federal immigration authorities.

According to Patrick, one of two the Massachusetts military bases could serve to house some of the children if either is approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Speaking at the press conference, Cardinal O'Malley expressed support for the plan.

"Governor Patrick has recognized the authentic human tragedy, and indeed humanitarian crisis, presented by the children now at the border coming from Central America," he said.

"This past week, Pope Francis in addressing the question of immigration globally, recognized both the complexity of the question in its broad dimensions, but then focused on the overwhelming immediacy of the needs of these children," Cardinal O'Malley said.

The cardinal said the issue of immigration on a broad scale impacts not just U.S. Catholics or Massachusetts Catholics, but the entirety of the Catholic Church.

"The Catholic Church at every level, globally, nationally and locally has long experience in assisting immigrants and refugees often fleeing from danger, suffering and deprivation, and we are willing to enter a collaborative relationship with the government to meet this urgent emergency," the cardinal said.

He committed the Archdiocese of Boston to some support to the effort as well.

"We do not have Church facilities that are appropriate, but we do have social service agencies in the archdiocese with skilled resources to provide programs of assistance and support within the framework of a larger federal and state program providing finances and collaboration,"

He said primary concern should go to the children in this situation.

"It is crucial for all of us I believe to begin any discussion with our eyes on these children. The Archdiocesan agencies are already stretched by demands here at home, but we still wish to offer our help in facing this humanitarian emergency. I ask my own faith community and the wider public to understand compassionately the extreme circumstances these children are facing. As a country and a Church we are capable of providing crucial assistance," Cardinal O'Malley said.

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