Vicar at St. Mary on the Hill, Augusta, follows Pope Francis
Trip to Mexican border with pope enlightens localsBY LISA KAYLOR Staff Writer
When Pope Francis visited Mexico the week of Feb. 11, the Rev Gonzalo Meza was right there with him.
Meza, a parochial vicar at St Mary on the Hill Catholic Church traveled with the press corps as the pope visited several cities in Mexico
“There were so many parts of the visit that struck me,” said Meza, who is originally from Mexico City. “In Juarez, he talked about immigration and violence. His gestures, praying in front of the big cross, putting the altar next to the border fence.”
He said there were about 200,000 people in Juarez and 50,000 in El Paso, Texas, which are separated by several feet and a fence that makes up the U.S. Mexican border. He said that contrary to popular perception, the borders are fluid, not concrete People are constantly driving back and forth on the highway across the border from their homes to work and back again, most legally. Meza said residents of Juarez and El Paso are like one population, divided only by the fence
When the pope celebrated Mass in Juarez, it was celebrated at the same time with the people on the other side the fence in El Paso.
“We were all (worshiping) together in one faith. To me it was very touching,” Meza said.
Meza shared his experiences and the Catholic perspective on immigra tion with those gathered at St. Mary on Wednesday for a Lenten talk and a chili lunch.
He said that during his visit, the pope visited many people on the edges of society. He visited the indigenous people in Chiapas. In Morelia he spoke with youths about turning from the drugs and alcohol that is prevalent around them. In Ecatepec he encouraged the “poorest of the poor.”
“That was a very touching moment,” Meza said.
Meza said that the United States was founded on the value that God is sovereign, that people were created by him and for his purpose, that God endowed people with rights and freedoms to fulfill his purpose for our lives and that government exists to protect these God-given rights.
The Catholic Church’s values are similar, and that those values align with those of other faiths and those with no faith – the basic principles of seeking justice and the common good, defending the innocent, uplifting the weak and promoting the freedom of human dignity of a human being.
“Jesus Christ himself was a refugee forced into exile by the persecution of King Herod,” he said. “The social doctrine of welcoming the refugee comes from the teaching of Jesus. He was the one who commanded us to welcome the stranger.”
Meza said in the Catholic teaching, people have the right to flee their homeland if conditions threaten their lives or prevent them from securing the basic necessities But immigrants also have the obligation to respect the “material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives it,” he said
“They need to understand that wherever they go, they need to respect their laws,” he said.
He said the trip was very intense. For seven days, it was a whirlwind of traveling by plane or by bus, sometimes leaving little time to eat or drink. Occasionally Meza opted to stay in the press room just to rest for a couple of hours.
The talk was part of a series that St Mary is holding at lunchtime during Lent.
The Rev. Jerry Ragan, the pastor of St Mary, said the series focuses on sharing God’s love with all people, including those on the edges of church and society.
“The Lenten series for the Year of Mercy is trying to hear what the Holy Father is asking us to do,” he said.
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