Setting a Strong Foundation


We’re still trying to catch our breath after the stunning climax to one of the most rancorous presidential campaigns in modern times.

We have a president-elect.

Donald J. Trump, the brash outsider who’s long been a familiar figure to New Yorkers, will lead the nation and represent America to the world from the moment he’s sworn in on Inauguration Day Jan. 20.

We congratulate him on his victory and wish him all the best as he begins what might be the hardest job in the world. At the same time, we’ll pray that our still-divided nation will find a way to come together, to heal the breach and unite as Americans who want only the best for our country.

While we advocate keeping an open mind as the Trump era gets under way, we also see a need for some caution. He has not, after all, served in public office before, and no one can be sure of the direction he will take.

The U.S. bishops, like many of us, are grappling with the uncertainty ahead. At their fall general meeting last week, they were peppered with questions about how they’ll work with or approach a president-elect who has made promises to pro-life Catholic constituencies and yet insulted ethnic groups and threatened mass deportations, which some bishops have publicly opposed.

“I have to admit at this point I’m not sure where the new administration is coming from,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who had just been elected president of the bishops’ conference, responding to a reporter’s question at a news conference.

While things take shape, however, we’d like to remind the president-elect that there’s one important issue on which the Church position is clear.

We stand firmly with our immigrant brothers and sisters and will defend their rights as human beings. We will walk with them on their journey and oppose any effort to arbitrarily break up families.

Church workers who minister to immigrants around the country, including here in New York, are already talking about the fear gripping their communities as they await a president who campaigned by saying he would build a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, enact a “massive deportation force” and end birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the U.S., no matter the immigration status of the parents.

Certainly, our immigration system needs meaningful reform, and of course our borders must be secure. But the undocumented individuals who are here, many of them for decades and many with children born in this country, all have different stories. We need to listen to those stories before we write them off and ship them out en masse.

That’s what we stand for as Catholics and as Americans.

Pope Francis, elevating 17 new cardinals from diverse backgrounds in a consistory on Saturday, made the point that the Church must be a sign for the world that differences of nationality, skin color, language and social class do not make people enemies, but brothers and sisters with different gifts to offer.

All people are embraced by God’s love, he said. It is we, the people, “who raise walls, build barriers” and label others.

Indeed it is, and we pray that President Trump will use his well-known expertise in building to bring people together and help to heal the division in our nation.


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