Bishop Seamus Hegarty keynote speaker at Washington conference on immigration

06 May 2005


6 MAY 2005



Dr Séamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry and Chairman of the Irish Bishop’s Commission
for Emigrants arrived in Washington DC today to speak at a conference organised
by the Irish Apostolate in the USA.

Bishop Hegarty said, “The primary purpose of my visit is a pastoral one. Irish
bishops have long worked with, and supported, Irish people living abroad.  However,
the needs and concerns of our emigrants vary from person to person and from
country to country.  In the mid-1980s we accompanied our emigrants to the USA
and our great concern is now focused on their pastoral needs and especially
on those who are undocumented.

“Over the last week I have met with many people in such situations. Their plight
is compounded as changes in legislation have succeeded in making them feel more
insecure and vulnerable. Many are considering returning home. Those who remain
wait in hope for legislative amendments that will give consideration to the 10
to 12m undocumented, from a variety of national backgrounds, based in the United

Bishop Hegarty continued, “This weekend I will liaise with the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops on this issue.  Mr Mark Franken of the US Bishops’
Migrant and Refugee Services, will address our Apostolate members on its campaign
for immigration reform that is soon to be announced which is entitled: “Justice
for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope”.

“In my meetings with various Bishops over the last week including Cardinal Egan
of New York, Bishop Di Marizio of Brooklyn and Auxiliary Bishop Lennon in Boston,
we discussed the pastoral care of migrants in the American church.  I am greatly
encouraged by their commitment to migrants and in particular to the undocumented.
We offer our thanks to the USCCB and our give total support to this much needed

“I am greatly encouraged by the efforts of our present Government and warmly
welcome today the Minster of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and
Employment, Mr Tony Killeen TD to our conference.  I also welcome other members
of the Oireachtas who have made the effort to be here and will in their own way
represent the needs of our Irish people at this important time of legislative
reform. Representation at a political level must be sustained if any progress
is to be made. The task is not an easy one but one must not lose hope. I am
also deeply grateful of the warm welcome afforded to me by the Irish Ambassador
to the USA, Mr Fahy and his Consular staff around the US for their courtesy
and their very valuable insights.”

“I have always held the work of our migrant Chaplains in high regard and I am
as convinced as ever of their outstanding contribution to the pastoral care of
our people.  In my meeting with them and with the offices of the Host Church I
am examining how best we can support this service into the future.  For those
who cannot return home for family bereavements, the chaplains, along with the
local Church, are showing great sensitivity and care in these difficult times.”

Bishop Hegarty said, “I have been very touched by the warm and encouraging feed
back from the undocumented Irish people that I have met. They are greatly
encouraged that we are taking an interest in their plight.  I have been touched
deeply by their goodness. They are good citizens: they pay their taxes and
contribute to the overall good of American society.

“I am delighted to use this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding contribution
of Bishop Raymond Boland, recently retired Bishop of Kansas who for many years
acted as Irish liaison to the USCCB. He loved his homeland as a citizen of the
US never forgot his Irish heritage and worked to support the initiatives of the
Irish Apostolate USA and made every effort to support progress for peace and
reconciliation in Ireland.”

Bishop Hegarty concluded, “I also welcome this opportunity to learn from the
American Church which has gathered great expertise as a receiving Church. Our
expertise is as a sending Church. I am availing of this opportunity to reflect
on our duties and obligations towards migrants who are now making Ireland their

Notes for Editors

* Bishop Hegarty is accompanied on his visit by Fr. Alan Hilliard, Director of
the Irish Bishop’s Commission for Emigrants.

* The Irish Bishops’ Conference established a dedicated service in 1957 – the
Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants (IECE) – to help co-ordinate support
for Irish emigrants in the UK.  Since that time this outreach has been extended
to Europe, the USA and Australia.

* The objectives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops immigration
reform campaign are:
– To educate the public, especially the Catholic community, including Catholic
public officials, about church teaching on migration and immigrants;

– To create political will for positive immigration reform;

– To enact legislative and administrative reforms based on the principles
articulated in the pastoral letter;

– To organize Catholic networks to assist qualified immigrants in obtaining the
benefits of the reforms.

* You can support the Irish bishops’ “2005 Supporting Irish Abroad Campaign”
by contacting us on [email protected]

Further information:

Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)