EL PASO, Texas — Catholic dioceses along the U.S.-Mexico border near El Paso are scheduled to hold a border Mass in honor of migrants who died while trying to cross.
The dioceses from El Paso, Las Cruces, and Ciudad Juarez are slated Saturday to celebrate Mass at a Rio Grande levee and call for immigrant rights.
Pope Francis celebrated a border Mass in a Ciudad Juarez field in February and urged the world to put a human face on the “tragedy that is forced migration.”
Francis then walked up a platform next to the Rio Grande and blessed people gathered a few yards away on the U.S. side.
In a Crux interview prior to that stop, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso said the pope clearly intended to make a statement about immigrant rights.
“It’s not wrong to think the pope is coming to the border to make a statement about the human dignity of immigrants,” Seitz told Crux, acknowledging that such a statement has clear political consequences.
“It’s the Church’s role to speak to the human face of people who are struggling, to try and free them from our tendency to make them a number and [depict them] as some kind of threat to our way of life,” Seitz said.
Saturday’s Mass will be celebrated by Seitz, along with Bishop Jose Guadalupe Torres of Ciudad Juarez and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces.
In his Crux interview, Seitz said that on the ground in El Paso, Ciudad Juarez and Las Cruces, “we see the people on the other side of the border not as aliens, but as brothers and sisters with whom we share our lives.”
In December 2015, December, Seitz and Torres met on the Santa Fe bridge connecting the two cities. Torres said on that occasion, “Para expresar la unidad de dos paises, pero de un solo pueblo,” meaning, “We’re here to express the unity of two countries, but a single community.”
“A border doesn’t have to be a place of threat,” Seitz said. “It can also be a place of encounter.”
Crux staff also contributed to this report.