Bishops, White House call for compassion for Syrian refugees

December 15, 2015


The collateral damage from the terrorist attacks by ISIS in Paris continues to mount as countries try to close their borders to Syrian refugees fleeing from civil war, terrorism and barbarism in their homeland.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops responded to the Nov. 13 attacks with a call for sympathy for the victims in Paris and compassion for the refugees, urging U.S. lawmakers, and all Catholics, to open their arms to innocent people seeking asylum.

Bishop Elizondo

"These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris," Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of the Archdiocese of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, said in a statement Nov. 17. "They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.

"As a great nation, the United States must show leadership during this crisis and bring nations together to protect those in danger and bring an end to the conflicts in the Middle East," he said.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 4 million Syrians have left their homeland since the fighting began in 2011; most of them are in exile in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 6.5 million Syrians are displaced within their country.

According to the White House, only 2,034 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United State since the conflict began. Still, following the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, some U.S. governors, senators, representatives and presidential candidates have called for heightened review of asylum applications by Syrians, favoring Christian Syrians over Muslim applicants, or bans on Syrian resettlement in certain states.

The Obama administration is urging a compassionate response to the refugee crisis and a tamping down of the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim political rhetoric. The White House supports admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. in the next year.

As part of its effort to build grassroots support for admitting Syrian refugees to the U.S., the Obama administration has set up a website from which anyone can download graphics, such as the one shown here. They can be found at

The White House and USCCB have resources that all citizens can use to support the relocation of Syrian refugees to the U.S.

The White House has launched a social media campaign, #RefugeesWelcome, and has set up a site where anyone can download graphics, including the one that accompanies this story, to make the case that the U.S. has an obligation to respond to the humanitarian crisis and welcome Syrian refugees. The resources are available at

Earlier this fall, the bishops listed actions that all Catholics can take to heed the biblical exhortation to "welcome the stranger," including:

  • Sending a letter to the White House and congressional representatives urging safe passage for the refugees and a solution to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. A form letter can be accessed on the Catholics Confront Global Poverty page at: Catholics Confront Global Poverty is a joint initiative of the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services.
  • Volunteering and donating to local resettlement offices. A list of resettlement offices sorted by state and diocese can be found at:
  • Donating to relief organizations such as the National Catholic Fund for Migration and Refugee Relief.

For more information, visit


Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.