Monday, October 18, 2010


It is a privilege to be in Rome for the Special Assembly on the Church in the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. Running from October 10 to 24, the Synod has brought together some 185 Synod Delegates to discuss all aspects of the Catholic Church in the greater Middle East area.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has recognized six historic Catholic Churches of the Middle East as Churches of equal dignity with the Latin Church: the Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite, and Syrian. In our Archdiocese we are blessed to have all six of these Churches present. In addition, we also have many Eastern Rite Churches with roots in India, northern Africa, and Europe.

The past several years have been extremely difficult for our Eastern Catholic Churches because of wars, political tensions, and economic sanctions imposed upon Christians throughout the area. These problems have prompted many Christians to flee for safer homes and more equal opportunities in Latin America, the United States, Canada, South Africa, and Australia.

The Church around the world welcomes our Eastern Rite brothers and sisters and attempts to provide them new opportunities in our midst. We encourage the Eastern Rite members to remain faithful to their own Eastern Churches, and not to leave them for the Roman Catholic parishes nearby.

But there is also a new phenomenon affecting the Churches in the Middle East: the Latin Catholic population is expanding rapidly across the Persian Gulf States and in Saudi Arabia. Most of these are guest workers primarily from the Philippines and throughout South Asia.

Some two million of these live in Saudi Arabia but they are forbidden to practice their Faith because the public observance of Christianity is prohibited.

Increased efforts are underway to find new avenues of pastoral ministry for these Catholics who are living in countries with a strict Islamic code of conduct, thus forbidding other religions to function.

We are at the half-way point in the Synod, and are now developing proposals for Pope Benedict XVI to consider when the Synod ends. These proposals would be developed into an Apostolic Exhortation by the Pope, usually issued a year after the Synod.

But in the meantime, all of us from the Eastern and Western Churches are determined to move forward quickly with renewed bonds of friendship and to initiate new avenues of cooperation and collaboration for the good of both emigrants from the Middle East and immigrants to the Middle East.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Former Secretary of State Colin Powell made the news recently when he admitted that many of the workers who repaired the roof on his house were probably undocumented workers. He quickly clarified that assertion by stating that his contractor hired the workers, not him.

California Governor candidate Meg Whitman stirred up a hornets nest last week when she admitted that her housekeeper for some nine years was undocumented.

But I've got news for everyone: All of us at least indirectly hire undocumented workers, and many directly hire them. Normal life and business in Southern California would come to a screeching halt without undocumented workers doing all kinds of important work to sustain us all: planting and harvesting our food, caring for our children in homes or day care centers, mowing our lawns and maintaining our yards, cleaning rooms in our hotels and motels, washing our cars, doing our dry cleaning and laundry, and performing the laborer tasks on many construction jobs.

But undocumented workers are also doing far more important tasks as well: serving as cooks and chefs in our restaurants, operating outdoor machinery of all kinds, caring for our sick and elderly, assisting in many medical and dental offices, and working alongside engineers out in the field.

Recently I was at an Embassy Suites hotel here in Los Angeles, and I told the manager that it seemed like everyone on his hotel staff were immigrants. He looked at me with surprise, and told me: "Well of course, only immigrants come here and apply for jobs. Do you think ordinary 'Americans' are going to do any of this kind of work?"

The California State Employment Dept. regularly advertises all across the state for people to work in the harvest of peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes, and all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Guess how many 'Americans' show up for this type of employment--you're correct, practically no one.

And yet, immigrants--both documented and undocumented--are actually subsidizing our family food bills. These workers usually earn minimum wage, and work for staggered periods of time. That's why in this country we pay only 9.5% of our annual income for food--the lowest percentage in the world. Other countries and their percentage of income spent for food: United Kingdom, 11%; Japan, 17%; South Africa, 27%; India, 53%.

And why? Because immigrants are subsidizing our food production and processing with their low wages, few worker benefits, and unsteady employment.

This is just one more reason that we need to open our eyes and look around to see how vital immigrants are to the prosperity and well-being of our country. And why we need to enact federal law to help bring our immigrant brothers and sisters out from the shadows and help them become legal residents here.

Yes, ALL of us employ undocumented workers, both directly and indirectly. Let's appreciate them and work to respect their rights in our midst.