Columbans Call for Policy that Reflects Pope Francis' Message of Mercy at the Border

February 18, 2016

Contact: Jenny Labbadia, Communications and Outreach Associate

Office: 202-635-5812, Email:

Washington, D.C.- Pope Francis’ historic visit to Mexico culminated in a visit to Ciudad Juarez, a city along the Mexico-US border, where he blessed migrants and celebrated mass with more than 300,000 faithful. By holding mass in such a politically and geographically significant location, the pope affirmed the Columban commitment to just and merciful migration and border policies.

Columbans have lived and worked in both Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, cities separated by only a fence, for over twenty years, accompanying migrants and the marginalized in both places. As a community that serves poor and marginalized communities globally in countries plagued by poverty and conflict, we see how these conditions drive people to migrate away from their homes in search of security and safety. Therefore, we believe we are called to both serve the needs of migrants everywhere and to address the root causes of migration so people and their families have the choice to remain at home.

Members of the Columban community actively participated in Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. Columban Father Kevin Mullins, pastor at a local parish in Ciudad Juarez, joined the priests of Juarez at the city’s fairgrounds for the mass. Father Bill Morton, who has worked at the border for 20 years, received the pope’s blessing along with undocumented migrants, people facing homelessness, victims of domestic violence, and others on the El Paso side of the border.

During his homily, Pope Francis lifted up the plight of migrants and refugees, urging a commitment to a deeper understanding of their journeys, “We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant migration for thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometers through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones.  The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today.  This crisis which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families.”  

We stand with Pope Francis’ call to “weep over injustice, cry over corruption, cry over oppression” so that we may be able to live out mercy in practice and policy. We echo Pope Francis’ appeal for “the gift of conversion” and “open hearts” so we see this not just as a global phenomenon but as the faces of our brothers and sisters.

The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach is the US advocacy office for the Missionary Society of St. Columban. The Center serves as the line of communication between Columban missionaries serving in 15 countries around the world and policy makers in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to work towards a more just, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable world by engaging in the political process guided by our Catholic faith and the Gospel.