BY ISN STAFF | October 15, 2019
On October 13, 2019, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso released a pastoral letter, Night Will Be No More, at a liturgy at the conclusion of Teach-In 2019: Journey for Justice, co-hosted by Hope Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition.
The letter responds to racism, xenophobia, hatred, and white supremacy, both in the borderland community and across the nation, particularly as witnessed with the August 3, 2019 massacre at a Walmart in El Paso that left twenty-two dead and many more injured. “Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy,” he wrote in the letter.
In the letter, he references Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, a recent pastoral letter on racism released by the United States Catholic bishops, as well as the work at the “intersections of race and violence” of Bishop Edward Braxton and the work of theologian Fr. Bryan Massingale, a professor at Fordham University and 2017 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice keynote speaker.
“The wall is a powerful symbol in the story of race,” Bishop Seitz wrote. “It is a destructive force on the environment. The wall kills families and children. There will be a day when after this wall has come crumbling down we will look back and remember the wall as a monument to hate.”
The letter calls upon the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, vital to the faith culture of the borderlands region. “She takes on our people’s pain and trauma,” the letter reads, “and she transforms it to give birth to hope and redemption.”
Bishop Seitz also called upon the examples of martyrs in understanding Christian witness and work for justice. “We see this example in the lives of Saint Oscar Romero; Blessed Father Stanley Rother; the four [Churchwomen] killed in El Salvador in 1980; the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter killed in El Salvador in 1989; our own San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado. In the spirit of these examples which make the Gospel credible I wish to build a bridge.”
He further writes: “If there is anyone who feels so alone, so isolated and so tortured that you feel your only way out is to succumb to the darkness of racism and violence and pick up a gun, I say to you today: there is a place for you in our community and our church. Lay aside your weapons of hate. Put away your fear. Here there is a teacher, a sister, a deacon, a priest, a counselor … a bishop, waiting to welcome you home and greet you with love. Tú vales.”
Bishop Seitz concludes the letter with an appeal to spare the shooter the death penalty to end the “cycle of hate, blood and vengeance on the border.” Finally, he asks President Trump, members of Congress, and courts to “listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border.”