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Pope Francis To Bless Group Of Undocumented Immigrants And Refugees During U.S. Visit

 

Pope Francis will personally bless a group of undocumented immigrants and refugees when he visits the United States later this month, reports ABC News:

The Sept. 25 encounter with about 150 mostly Spanish-speaking New Yorkers “is about the values and the message that he has articulated as pope,” the head of New York’s Catholic Charities, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, told a news conference Thursday at a church in Harlem.

Among those the pope will bless at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem are youngsters from violence-torn Central American countries who crossed the border alone, refugees who fled persecution and are seeking asylum, struggling American-born minorities and disabled immigrants. Francis will also meet a group of Catholic schoolchildren.

Some of the families Pope Francis is expected to meet are refugees who fled violence-ravaged nations in Central America, including one family who hitchhiked thousands of miles to the safety of the US:

Manhattan resident Yvette Suazo, her 14-year-old daughter, Chelsea, and 4-year-old son Kingson hitchhiked from Honduras to the U.S. about two years ago. Life at home had become precarious, with her daughter in danger of being raped each time she left the house, the mother said after the news conference.

Asked whether she had documents allowing her to live in New York legally, Suazo said, in Spanish, “Nada” — nothing.

Another teenager who will meet with the Pope, Cristhian, is asking for just a simple prayer for his family:

“I left because of the crime and so many people on drugs,” said Cristhian Contreras, who was 14 when he and a few friends fled from Honduras by foot across the U.S. border.

Now 16, he lives in the Bronx, attends high school and is a member of a soccer team with fellow immigrants. His mother works as a housekeeper, but fears deportation. He never knew his father.

Cristhian is counting on the pope’s blessing, he said as smile filled his face. He added, this time in Spanish, “I’m one of the few people invited to be with the pope. And if I have the chance, I’ll ask him to pray for us and our countries.”

This past weekend, Pope Francis called on “every Catholic parish or religious community in Europe to take in refugee families fleeing from the war-torn Middle East, a direct appeal to assist with the region’s ongoing migrant crisis.”

“In front of the tragedy of the tens of thousands of refugees escaping death by war or hunger, on the path towards the hope of life, the Gospel calls us, asks us to be ‘neighbors’ of the smallest and most abandoned,” The Pope said, with ThinkProgress adding his own diocese in Rome is included in his request.

“To this end, with the nearing of the Jubilee of Mercy, I address an appeal to the parishes, to the religious communities, to the monasteries and sanctuaries of all of Europe to express the concreteness of the Gospel and welcome a family of refugees.”

Francis has made the plight of immigrants and refugees a major plank of his Papacy, but advocates expect it to become the main topic of conversation as his visit coincides with the toxic campaign of leading Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump:

“I’m an immigrant myself, and I hear politicians saying they want to build higher walls. I can’t remember a time when it’s been this ugly,” said Perez, 31, an elementary school teacher who emigrated from El Salvador when she was a child and now attends Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va.

Perez said that at a time when politicians are talking about mass deportations, “anchor babies” and revoking birthright citizenship, she is eager to hear the pope’s “gentle, kind voice that makes you feel like you are going to be okay.”