The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has spoken out about the Church's obligation to act justly and to love tenderly when dealing with refugees. To mark Refugee Week, which begins on Sunday 16 June, a letter has issued to all priests of the Westminster archdiocese encouraging them to ensure that the pastoral needs of refugees living in parishes in the archdiocese are met generously, and with a commitment that reflects the Gospel. The Refugee Service of the Diocese exists to work with refugees of any faith and none in the Archdiocese of Westminster in practical ways, both to ease their personal circumstances, and to help address their pastoral and spiritual needs. The Cardinal said: "As Catholics, we recognise and value the uniqueness of each human being and are called upon to proclaim our membership of the same global family, regardless of race or ethnic origin. As members of that global family, we are confronted today with the phenomenon of 20 million displaced people throughout the world. Many of these are refugees who have survived armed conflicts, persecution and fear of death. Most of them seek and find refuge in the world's poorest countries. Those who come to the West, often encounter an atmosphere of prejudice, intolerance and misunderstanding. Immigration detention, long delays (as much as three years or more) waiting for decision on asylum claims, the exclusion of children from mainstream education, levels of financial support at only 70% of income support and the constant denigration at the hands of a hostile press are just some of the burdens added to the pain of exile. How do we respond to this situation? The prophet Micah tells us that what is expected of us is "to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God". How do we act justly to the stranger in our midst? How do we show them tender love? Do we in our response to refugees, walk humbly with our God. We act justly when we acknowledge that the refugee is "not an object of assistance, but rather a subject of rights and duties" (John Paul II) and commit ourselves to fundamental principles of justice for all members of society. We love tenderly when, recognising the all embracing love of God for each of us, we treat every refugee, regardless of his or her legal status, as a brother or sister, by being aware of, accepting and welcoming them into our parishes and our communities. Surely the Gospels demand this of us, priests and people in these testing times. We walk humbly with our God when we recognise Him in the person who is lonely and afraid and respond to him or her in their need. That is the Christian way."
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