Facing protesters - one wearing a blindfold, another with tape over her mouth, and a third with his wrists bound - Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput urged congregants at a special Mass for immigrant justice Sunday night to tell politicians to support comprehensive immigration reform.
Before the service at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, about 30 protesters from two recently closed churches, La Milagrosa and St. Joachim, gathered outside to fight for their parishes.
Gilbert Gonzalez, from La Milagrosa, a tiny historic Spanish church on Spring Garden Street that closed last week, said Chaput's stance on immigration reform was hypocritical.
"They know the largest group of people coming into the state of Pennsylvania are Mexicans and Latinos," he said, standing with other parishioners wearing matching blue T-shirts.
On the other side of the church, wearing pink T-shirts and holding signs, were members of St. Joachim in Frankford, where the last Mass was said Sunday. With the additional closing of nearby Mater Dolorosa, "Frankford will not have a Catholic church for the first time in 150 years," said Pat Smiley, adding that her group came to support La Milagrosa.
In his homily before an estimated 600 people, which was translated into Spanish, Chaput said a day of justice for immigrants was celebrated throughout the archdiocese, which included a fast - lasting from one to 40 days and restricted to eating nothing before dinner - by several dozen people in 13 churches to urge the city to end the collaboration between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the police to identify undocumented people.
Chaput said that for many years, bishops had lobbied political leaders to reform immigration laws because "something about the way things are done now is wrong."
"It's very important for every country in the world to work for the dignity of the citizens of those countries," he said, adding that if people cannot find work, they have a right to emigrate.
On the other hand, countries have a right to police their borders and have immigration laws, Chaput said. Coming up with laws that respect those seemingly contradictory positions is not the job of bishops, he said, but of politicians.
During the Mass, Gonzalez wore a bandanna over his eyes to symbolize what he said was the church's turning a blind eye to their plight. A woman taped her mouth, and a man tied his wrists.
During the service, a security guard made the woman take the tape off. Later, he tried to remove Gonzalez's bandanna, but Chaput motioned him away.
But when Gonzalez walked up to receive Communion, Chaput refused him because he was protesting, Gonzalez said later.
After the service, Chaput greeted parishioners in the back of the cathedral. When the protesters from La Milagrosa and St. Joachim came up to him, the archbishop turned to a newspaper photographer who had been allowed to take pictures during the service, told him he wasn't welcome, and asked him to leave.