March 23, 2023


Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, spoke about necessary responses that should come from the Church and State to overcome the global immigration crisis at the James H. Provost Memorial Lecture March 22.  

Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, dean of The School of Canon Law, opened the event with a quote from Pope Francis who in September urged Catholic institutions of higher education to “educate their own students … to a clearer understanding of the phenomenon of migration, within a perspective of justice, global responsibility and communion in diversity.” 

During his lecture, “Migration and Immigration: A Challenge of Our Time for Church and State,” Cardinal O’Malley said Pope Francis has offered clear direction to the Catholic Church and political leaders on aiding migrant refugees: to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate. 

“Welcoming requires generous and reasonable national policy; protecting requires diligence and seeing that individuals and families are not taken advantage of,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “Promoting involves opening the path to citizenship and employment. Integrating means respecting the migrants cultural and religious heritage while creating the space and assistance to enter the life of our society.” 

Cardinal O’Malley said his primary attention is the moral dimension of the immigration policy. He mentioned seven fundamental Catholic teachings on immigration: the human community, the dignity of the human person, rights and duties, the common good, social justice, solidarity, and the preferential option for the poor. 

From 1973 to 1992, the cardinal worked in Washington, D.C., at the Spanish Catholic Center, which offers services to immigrants from around the world. He called it “an uplifting experience and indeed a privilege and honeymoon of my priesthood.”  

Cardinal O’Malley said immigrants are significant contributors to the well-being of the United States. 

 “The hard work and sacrifice of so many immigrant peoples are in many ways the secrets to success in this country,” he said. “Migrants and refugees are not primarily a problem to be solved, they are human beings and future human resources to a country.”  

However, immigration remains one of the most contested policies in the United States. In the past year an estimated 2.3 million individuals tried to enter the U.S. at the southern border. 

 “As a nation of immigrants, we should feel a sense of identification with other groups seeking to enter our country,” the cardinal said. “People have the right to immigrate … and states have obligations to provide reasonable responses to migration.”

Cardinal O’Malley praised the University for placing the sculpture replica of “Angels Unaware” on its campus, in the Welcome Plaza between Father O'Connell Hall and Gibbons Hall. The original sculpture – which depicts 140 migrants and refugees from different countries and historical eras – stands in St. Peter’s Square and was commissioned by Pope Francis.

Cardinal O’Malley, who has a doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese literature from The Catholic University of America, taught at the University from 1969 to 1973 and is a member of the Board of Trustees. 

Introducing the talk, University President Dr. Peter Kilpatrick thanked Cardinal O’Malley for his friendship and colleagueship on the Board of Trustees, adding that it was a “distinct pleasure” for him to welcome the cardinal to deliver the Provost lecture.

The School of Canon Law hosts the lecture series in honor of Rev. James Provost who served as chair of the canon law department from 1987-1998. The series is supported through the generosity of family and friends of Rev. Provost. 

The full lecture is available below.

Migration & Immigration: A Challenge of Our Time for Church and State from Catholic University on Vimeo.