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INS Asks Vatican to Clarify Pope's Refugee Remarks

September 15, 1987|Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. — The Immigration and Naturalization Service wants the Vatican toclarify remarks by Pope John Paul II that some have interpreted as endorsing the sanctuary movement, an agency spokesman said Monday.

In a speech here Sunday, the Pope praised the "courage and generosity" of those who aid refugees "arriving from the south." These helpers "have sought to show compassion in the face of complex human, social and political realities," the Pope said. The Pope did not specifically mention the sanctuary movement, which assists illegal aliens who they believe are fleeing political and social turbulence in Latin America.

Immigration officials said they hope that members of the sanctuary movement do not misinterpret the Pope. 'I don't see anything in his statement that would encourage anyone to violate the federal statutes of the United States," said Duke Austin, spokesman for the agency in Washington.

But he said the INS had asked U.S. diplomats at the Vatican to request a clarification. "Ourconcern would be if it would generate the impression of an endorsement on a national basis," Austin said.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican's top press officer, denied Monday that the Pope had endorsed the sanctuary movement in his address. "He was not addressing any specific moral movement," but rather intends "to implement the full message of the Gospel," Navarro said.

Austin said that even ablanket papal endorsement ofthe movement would not cause many problems for immigration officials. He said only 300 churches are openly involved in the movement, and many of them are not Catholic.

"In our opinion, he's talking about doing things within the framework of the law," said Silvestre Reyes, chief agent for the INS Border Patrol's McAllen Sector, which includes Brownsville, Tex. "I don't think he would advocate any violation of the law."

San Antonio Archbishop Patrick Flores, who has not vocally supported the sanctuary workers, said he interpreted the Pope's remarks as an endorsement of humanitarian aid for all refugees.

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