August 11, 2006


The Church’s mission is to bring unity in diversity

The mission of the Catholic Church is to proclaim and establish among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #767-769)

On June 2, 2000, the Jubilee Day for Migrants and Refugees, the bishops of the United States issued a pastoral statement, Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity. In this important message, the bishops said:

“Unity in diversity is the vision that we bishops, as pastors of the Church in the United States, offer to our people as they welcome the new immigrants and refugees who come to our shores.”

Given the challenges, and opportunities, facing us six years later here in Indiana and throughout the United States in the area of immigration reform, these are prophetic words.

Welcoming the Stranger Among Us was not simply a pious sentiment expressed during the Jubilee Year. It was (and is) a challenge issued to the whole Church—and in a very particular way to the Church in North America— as we seek to be and become the one body of Christ, communities of faith united in all our diversity, called to proclaim and establish the kingdom of God here and now and in the world to come.

The Church in America represents remarkable diversity. We come from many different regions of the world. We speak many different languages. We reflect the habits and experiences of many distinct cultures. We are rich and poor, old and young, traditional and progressive, black and white and everything in between.

We are native Americans and immigrants from other nations—either recently or many years ago. We are urban, rural and suburban. Every day, we welcome strangers from all over the world to the natural beauty, economic opportunities and political freedoms that draw so many people to our nation.

The Church is a mystery because in her very human and visible reality (the people and the institutions that represent the Church on a daily basis) there is also a divine spiritual reality that can only be seen with the eyes of faith. As Pope Benedict XVI has said, the Church is not holy because we (her people) are holy, but because Christ has gifted us with the Holy Spirit and with the power of his grace.

Our task, as disciples of Jesus Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, is to discern God’s will for his Church and to develop and share his abundant gifts in order to bring together all nations and peoples into the one kingdom of God.

One of the great challenges of our time is to develop and grow the essential unity that is too often hidden from plain view, but is central to who we are called to be as the people of God.

Of all the challenges facing the Church in the 21st century (the third millennium since the birth of Christ), the call to witness to our unity in diversity may be the most difficult. Given the wars that are raging across the globe with new intensity and the internal conflicts we face here at home, it’s hard to imagine a greater challenge than actually achieving the unity of God’s people.

Unity in diversity is the vision that the American bishops offer to us, the Catholic people of the United States. Unity in diversity requires tolerance, respect, hospitality and charity. It demands that we see in others the face of God (in whose image and likeness we are all made).

And it compels us to open our hearts and stretch out our hands, and welcome the stranger among us.

— Daniel Conway


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