Second Annual Meeting of the Bishops of America: Immigration to be Focus of Discussions

Thursday, February 08 2001

(Ottawa — CCCB) Catholic bishops from Canada, the United States and Latin America will be examining the question of immigration when they meet in Clearwater, Florida, February 12-14, for the second Meeting of the Bishops of America.

The annual meeting was set up in response to Pope John Paul II’s call in his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America for the Church in America to reflect on the challenges it faces at the beginning of the new millennium.

The discussion on immigration will be examined from two perspectives, that of the countries from which people are emigrating and that of the countries welcoming the new immigrants and their families. The bishops will look at the causes and effects of immigration in an effort to look for ways the Churches in the different countries can collaborate with one another.

The meeting will also examine the problems being experienced by immigrants once they arrive in their new surroundings. This concern for immigration is inspired by Ecclesia in America where the bishops are reminded that:

the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in the cases on non-legal immigration.

The delegates for this meeting are from the executive committees of the episcopal conferences of Canada and the United States and from CELAM, the association representing Latin American episcopal conferences. They will be accompanied some staff members. The CCCB delegation is made up of six people: Bishop Gerald Wiesner, OMI, of Prince George, President; Bishop Jacques Berthelet, CSV, of Saint Jean-Longueuil, Vice-President; Archbishop André Gaumond of Sherbrooke, Co-treasurer; Archbishop Brendan O’Brien of Saint John’s, Co-treasurer; Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, General Secretary; and Joe Gunn, Director of the Social Affairs Office. These informal meetings, formerly known as the Interamerican Meeting of Bishops, began in 1967. At their meeting in Cuba in 1999, and at the invitation of Pope John Paul II, the bishops renamed their gathering the Meeting of Bishops of the Church in America. The first meeting was held last year in Vancouver where the bishops discussed the eradication of poverty.

The Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, made public by the Pope in Mexico in January 1999, was issued following the Synod for the Bishops of America, held in Rome in the fall of 1997.