BY TIM HALL
CARDINAL CORMAC Murphy0' Connor has paid tribute to the immigrant workers of London and urged Catholics to show solidarity with all foreigners who come to live in the United Kingdom.
Speaking at a Mass in Westminster Cathedral, the spiritual leader of Catholics in England and Wales said that in the eyes of the Church there are no strangers and that everyone living in London should be regarded as a Londoner. In an address on May 1, the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, Cardinal MurphyO'Connor said that the Church and the country stand at the "crossroads of the greatest movement of people in history".
That movement of people, he said* had brought great economic advantages to Britain. However, mass migration has also presented many challenges, not least of which is the exploitation of undocumented workers in what amounted to "modern day
slavery". It is a Christianduty, he added, to help all Munigrants live in Britain with dignity and justice, even if they are here illegally.
Many immigrants were present to hear Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's homily at a special event called May Day for Migrants.
He said: "I want especially to welcome all the migrant workers and their families here today, who have come from other countries in search of work and new life here in London. We hope that this Mass will communicate to you that, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, you are Londoners. We want you to feel welcome in our parishes and our schools and our ethnic chaplaincies. We want you to know that you belong. For in the Catholic Church no one is a stranger."
He told the foreigners at the Mass: "We stand in solidarity with you," On a day when millions of Latin American migrants took---to the streets to protest against tough new laws on living and working in America, Cantina! Murphy-O'Connor's message was that to migrate was a human right.He also said that migrants should be welcomed as a valuable addition to society.
"Many nations would not be what they are today without the contribution made by millions of immigrants... In short, we are happy that you are here. We are grateful for the vital role that you play in our economy.
However. the cardinal added that there are people willing to exploit immigrants
and others who see them as second-class citizens.
He said: "It is a fact that migration can mean enormous hardships and suffering for the migrants... Sometimes immigrants, are deprived of their most elementary human rights. It is very necessary to reiterate that foreign migrants are not to be considered merchandise or merely manpower."
Undocumented workers were particularly vulnerable to exploitation because they worked outside the protection of the law he said.