Immigration and the Catholic Church

Authored by Megan Maye

Caulfield, Brian. 1996. “A Missionary Again.” The Staten Island Advance, August 17, 1996.

Pictured above is Brian Caulfield’s article, “A Missionary Again,” which discusses Silvano Tomasi’s episcopal ordination.

Cultural differences and inadequate understandings between immigrants and the United States has been an issue in the country for many years. The number of immigrants who come to the United States has increased annually (Segal and Mayadas 2005, 564), most likely causing growing concern between both parties.

When Silvano M. Tomasi, C.S. was selected as titular Archbishop of Cercina and Apostolic Nuncio to Eritrea and Ethiopia, he was eager to bring decades of his expertise in international migration to his new position (Caulfield 1996, 3). Brian Caulfield’s article, “A Missionary Again” discussed Tomasi’s episcopal ordination.

Tomasi continuously worked for the poor and displaced as an expert on migration and planned to be ordained in the parish church located in his northern Italian hometown, Casoni di Mussolente (Caulfield 1996, 3). Tomasi became a U.S. citizen shortly after his initial ordination to priesthood, but always considered himself a “missionary” while residing in the United States. His Italian heritage allowed him to sympathize with immigrants, and made his studies especially valuable (Caulfield 1996, 3).

The Catholic Church has been a huge supporter of immigrants as it has helped integrate new immigrants through services, education, advocacy and more. In the eyes of the church, immigration reform is the ultimate integration program (Appleby 2011, 67). According to Margarita Mooney, the church acts as a mediating structure between individuals and the state (Mooney 2007, 157). Mooney argued that “the interaction among religious institutions, civil society, and the state helps to facilitate successful immigrant adaptation” (Mooney 2007, 157).

According to Tomasi, “Immigration can no longer be seen as an emergency issue that comes about in sudden outbursts. We must look at immigration and migration in a global way. That is, the art of living together” (Caulfield 1996, 4). His words reflect St. John’s University’s Vincentian tradition “to foster a world view and to further efforts toward global harmony and development by creating an atmosphere in which all may imbibe and embody the spirit of compassionate concern for others . . .” (St. John’s University n.d.). Therefore, we are morally obligated to respect, protect and promote the basic human rights of all citizens, as well as immigrants (Neill 2012, 988).


Appleby, J. Kevin. 2011. “The Role of the Catholic Church in Immigrant Integration.” Review of Faith and International Affairs 9, no. 1 (January): 67-70.

Caulfield, Brian. 1996. “A Missionary Again.” The Staten Island Advance, August 17, 1996.

Mooney, Margarita. 2007. “The Catholic Church’s Institutional Responses to Immigration: From Supranational to Local Engagement.” In Religion and Social Justice for Immigrants, edited by Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, 157-171. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

Neill, William. 2012. “A Little Common Sense: The Ethics of Immigration in Social Catholic Teaching.” American Journal of Economics and Teaching 71, no. 4 (September): 988-1003. doi: 10.1111/j.1536-7150.2012.00854.x

Segal, Uma, and Mayadas, Nazneen. 2005. “Assessment of issues facing immigrant and refugee families.” Child Welfare, 84, no. 5 (September): 563-583.

St. John’s University. n.d. “Our Mission.” Accessed March 18, 2018.