Hands stretched through the chain-link fence at the U.S.-Mexico border as Massgoers exchanged the sign of peace with one another.
More than 500 people from the Catholic dioceses of El Paso, Texas, Las
Cruces in New Mexico and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico participated in the
annual Dia de los Muertos Mass on the Border Nov. 2.
Each year, Mass is celebrated at the same time on both sides of the
border fence dividing Anapra, N.M., and Anapra, Mexico, in the state of
Bishops Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces and Renato Ascencio Leon of Ciudad
Juarez, along with clergy from each side of the border, celebrated the
Mass on All Souls' Day to remember those who have died in migration and
as victims of the violence in the war on drugs.
This year's Mass began with testimonials from migrants and members of
the families of those who died in the drug cartel violence that has
taken thousands of lives in recent years.
Marco Raposo, director of El Paso's diocesan Peace and Justice Ministry,
said the Mass was offered "to ask Jesus' mercy for all our brothers and
sisters who just wanted to be united with their families."
Bishop Ramirez reminded those assembled at the border that "these people are in the eternal embrace of our heavenly Father."
In a commentary posted on his diocese's website, the Las Cruces bishop
described the rich symbolism of the liturgy and tied parts of the Mass
to the ordeal of many immigrants trying to cross the border.
"On both sides of the border we feel each other's agony, each other's
pain, each other's anguish, each other's sorrow and grief," he wrote.
"They, on account of the extreme violence of the drug wars and poverty;
we, on account of seemingly unending wars and a government that is
becoming increasingly less caring, less compassionate which makes life
ever more difficult for the little people, the poor, the elderly, the
unemployed and the immigrant."
"The border Mass is just like any other Mass. However, it takes on a
specific meaning because of the place where it is celebrated and the
reason for its celebration," the bishop continued. "Because it is
celebrated on All Souls' Day, those who have died along the border are
He mentioned parts of the Mass he said have "a special significance at the border." What he highlighted included:
-- The penitential rite: "We ask for God's forgiveness for the
injustices and the violence suffered by immigrants both here and in
Mexico and for immigration laws that are against the dignity of the
-- Liturgy of the Word: "The Mass takes place practically at the base of
Mount Cristo Rey. At the top of this mountain is a statue of Christ the
King. From the cross, the eyes of Christ gaze on things which sadden
him and also things which meet with his approval."
-- The sign of peace: "The ugly fence that separates us makes it
impossible to give one another an embrace, 'el abrazo' so we must be
content with just touching with the palms of our hands and smiling, yet
the joy of the moment knows no bounds and nothing can prevent us from
sharing the joy of being together."
-- Communion: "We eat of the same body and drink of the same blood of
Christ. We receive the same gift of divine life in our hearts. ... The
fence at which the Eucharist without borders is celebrated contradicts
aspects of our common ground as the body of Christ."
In discussing the presentation of gifts, Bishop Ramirez said that on
both sides of the fence, individuals approach both altars with similar
He detailed some of them and what they symbolize at the border: crosses,
"the faith that we share, and the faith that strengthens the immigrant
throughout his or her trying journey"; an image of Our Lady of
Guadalupe, who "offers protection to those on the journey and comfort to
fragmented families"; the U.S. and Mexico flags, because both countries
" yearn for peace along the border"; tennis shoes, "the only mode of
transportation so many immigrants have across the harsh, unrelenting
elements of the desert"; food and water, "the basic necessities of the
immigrant making the journey"; and backpacks, "all the immigrant brings
with him or her on their journey including their hope for a new future,
the skills and talents to share when they arrive in their new home."