Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Embrace immigrants, pleads England's Catholic leader

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales urged people in Britain to be more welcoming towards immigrants in his Christmas address Tuesday.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, made the call during his Christmas Homily, delivered at Westminster Cathedral in London during midnight mass. The service was broadcast live on BBC radio.

Immigration -- both legal and illegal -- and asylum have been hot political topics in recent years, with critics branding the system "open-door" and "chaos".

"Most immigrants come to our country because they wish to have a better life and work so as to provide for their families," Murphy-O'Connor said.

"What concerns me at the moment is our attitude as a nation to these many immigrants. Many of these people are trying, for perfectly good reasons, to enter Britain and they need to be welcomed.

"I understand that immigration needs to be controlled. However, sometimes they must feel like Joseph when he returned to Bethlehem after exile in Egypt, simply excluded because they are outsiders."

The British government was forced to admit in October that far more foreign workers had come into the country since 1997 than it first thought.

It corrected its official figures from 800,000 to 1.1 million people, though, using a written answer to parliament dug up from July, the main opposition Conservatives said the figure was actually 1.5 million.


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