O’Malley pledges support for immigrants in wake of travel ban

Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley.(Globe Staff/file 2014)

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, sent a letter to parishes underscoring the church’s support for immigrants and refugees, calling upon all Catholics to heed Pope Francis’s warnings against “the globalization of indifference.”

He pointed to the critical role immigrants have played historically and continue to play in the American Catholic Church, and the worldwide church’s commitment to standing with newcomers and those fleeing violence and hardship in their homelands.

“Just as we are a country of immigrants, so too we are a church of immigrants,” O’Malley said.

The letter, which the archdiocese said was read aloud to parishioners at churches throughout the archdiocese this past weekend, was among a series of actions O’Malley has taken to speak up for immigrants following two executive orders from President Trump last month clamping down on refugee resettlement and immigration.


On Thursday, the cardinal convened an extraordinary private meeting of top politicians and Muslim leaders at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to express solidarity with Muslims. The same day, he published an opinion essay in the Globe lamenting the “tone, style, and frenzied pace” of the orders. O’Malley said the orders produced “astonishment and confusion” here and abroad.

In the letter to parishioners, the cardinal cited his own experience working with undocumented immigrants from the early days of his priesthood, when he spent years in Washington, D.C., serving people fleeing violence in Central America. He said he has “seen up close the pain and suffering visited upon families who are forced by circumstances to live in the shadows, always fearful of discovery and economic ruin.”

O’Malley said he understood the need for immigration reform, but said he thought most Americans saw immigration as a crucial building block of American society.

“Although many Americans are frustrated by a broken immigration system and others are fearful of the threat of terrorism,” O’Malley wrote, “I believe that most people in this country recognize that we are a nation of immigrants and that we have an established history of assimilating people of different languages, religions, ethnicities into the magnificent mosaic that is America.”


He noted that immigrants contribute to the economy and government by paying taxes — “$1.36 billion in [Massachusetts] state income taxes and $1.28 billion in local property taxes” — and by doing, often, “the hardest work for the least pay.”

O’Malley sought to reassure Catholic immigrants, “especially families in the most precarious situations,” that the church stands with them and would “work hard to promote solutions to the challenges that you face.”

He added that Pope Francis’s first journey as pope was to call attention to the plight of refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

“Know that you are constantly in our thoughts and prayers,” O’Malley wrote. “You are not alone. You are an important part of our family, and your church will not cease to advocate on your behalf.”

Lisa Wangsness can be reached at