VATICAN CITY — Immigration, religious liberty and the new evangelization were among the topics of discussion for bishops from California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah during their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican, which ended April 21.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said that although Catholic social doctrine recognizes the right of nation-states to defend their borders, Scripture and Catholic tradition teach that the movement of people is a "part of creation, that God gave the earth to all us."
"The United States is a country of immigrants, and each wave of immigration has been a blessing," the archbishop said.
Noting that his own ancestors came to what is now the state of Texas in the early 19th century, Archbishop Gomez, who was born in Mexico, said that "there has always been a relationship between the two countries, and the contribution of Latinos to ... the culture of the United States is very important and has always been very important."
That legacy gives him hope that government leaders will find the "political will" to solve their current conflicts on the issue, he said.
Like their brother bishops who made "ad limina" visits earlier this year, the Western bishops discussed concerns about religious liberty in light of the Obama administration's Health and Human Services mandate, which would require the private health insurance plans of most Catholic institutions to cover surgical sterilization procedures and artificial birth control, in violation of the church's moral teaching.
The mandate exemplifies a creeping government intrusion in the life of the church, said Cardinal Mahony, who called unconstitutional the White House's attempt to define which bodies may enjoy the right of conscience objection.
"Rather than exercising our rights and liberties according to the constitution as guarantees, the government is now going to give us those by way of exception," the cardinal said.
The bishops also discussed plans for this fall's Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, an initiative that Pope Benedict has made a priority of his pontificate.
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