Homilist at ‘Red Mass’ calls for immigration reform

Celebrants at the Red Mass gather around the altar for the eucharistic prayer Jan. 14 at St. Mary’s Basilica. The Mass signifies the opening of the legislative session.
Celebrants at the Red Mass gather around the altar for the eucharistic prayer Jan. 14 at St. Mary’s Basilica. The Mass signifies the opening of the legislative session. (Tamara Tirado/CATHOLIC SUN)

Lawyers, lawmakers, judges and politicians were on hand at St. Mary’s Basilica Jan. 14 for the annual Red Mass.

The event, marking the kickoff of the legislative year, implores the Holy Spirit’s guidance for those charged with making and interpreting the law as well as those who have made the law their life’s work.

Sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society — a local alliance of Catholic attorneys — and the Diocese of Phoenix, the Red Mass is unique in that it draws both high-profile homilists and well-known public figures.

Rep. Andy Tobin, Speaker of the House in the Arizona Legislature, delivered the first reading and the Hon. Joseph Mikitish of the Maricopa County Superior Court presided at the renewal of the oath of admission to the bar that took place at the end of the Mass.

In a homily punctuated by jokes and flavored by quotes from Scripture, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M., called for immigration reform, characterizing the current system as “dysfunctional.”

The U.S. bishops often challenge lawmakers to respect the dignity of the human person, Bishop Ramirez said, from the unborn child to the poor, the hungry and the immigrant.

“The U.S. bishops in no way favor open borders,” Bishop Ramirez said. “We believe that every nation needs to protect its sovereignty.”

And while the “weight of civil law must be imposed on those that are guilty of criminal pasts,” Bishop Ramirez said, the U.S. bishops’ concerns center on the “unification of families, for those who have met with the real threat of violence… and for those seeking the opportunity to live decent and dignified lives. We want to assist those who seek to contribute to the community, to pay their taxes, to provide for their children and to live in safety.”

Bishop Ramirez lauded the U.S. legal tradition as honoring the rule of law. Some immigrants, he said, are fleeing countries where the rule of law is not respected, where “chaos, disorder, plunder, violence and grave insecurity are the order of the day.”

Quoting from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Bishop Ramirez stated that, “any law that degrades the human personality is unjust.

“When civil laws are not rooted in eternal and natural law, and violate human dignity and create injustices, than those laws must be declared unjust,” Bishop Ramirez said.

In his remarks, Alan Tavassoli, president of the St. Thomas More Society, noted that the organization exists to help those in the legal profession who see their work not just as a job, but a mission.

“As legal professionals, we must consider healing the wounds of our fellow man and woman and forming, interpreting and enforcing our laws, not only for those who have a voice in the system, but the countless numbers who do not,” Tavassoli said. “We are called to speak out against oppression, to act, to take sides for what is right in the eyes of God.”

The tradition of holding a Red Mass goes back to 13th century England and signaled the opening of Parliament. Red vestments are worn since it is a Mass of the Holy Spirit. Red is also the color signifying martyrdom, such as that suffered by St. Thomas More, an English lawyer who refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England. He was executed in 1536.


  1. I agree. The United States needs ‘immigration reform’, as does Mexico. If fact the U.S. needs NSA reform, IRS & tax reform, foreign policy reform, political corruption reform, and Obmamcare reform. Peace amigos…JO

  2. The current immigration system is “dysfunctional” primarily in that it is not enforced.
    So called “immigration reform” is “dysfunctional” in that it is a lie, being a euphemism for amnesty, not a just policy that primarily serves Americans and American interests.
    Amnesty would be “dysfunctional” and unjust in that it would reward those who flagrantly violate American soveignty as well as law by giving them preference over those who have patiently worked within the system for legal immigration.

    The gospel does not require a man to bankrupt himself in service to the poor. And that is exactly what the flood of illegal aliens is doing to this country. And let us not ignore the injustice to Ameican Citizens who are being injured economically as well too often physically by illegal aliens.

    As a nation we must;
    Secure our borders and stop the flood of illegal aliens!
    Do everything possible to prevent illegal aliens from gaining employment and recieving public assistance.

    As a Catholic Christian the obligcation I have is to ease their transition back to their homeland as quickly and humanely as possible!

  3. Bishop Ramirez stated “characterizing the current system as “dysfunctional.” He then stated “The U.S. bishops in no way favor open borders,” He continued by saying “concerns center on the “unification of families, … and for those seeking the opportunity to live decent and dignified lives. “
    May I suggest that Bishop Ramierz thought process is “dysfunctional”? He does favor open borders, he only wants families to be united in the United States and not their home country and he welcomes all who are seeking a better opportunity which includes those that broke the law and he wants them rewarded at the expense of the citizens of the United States that are under employed or not employed.
    If our immigration system is “dysfunctional” it is because our Democratic politicians led by Obama will not enforce our current laws. We need not reform immigration laws as Obama will pick and choose only those parts of the law that he agrees with. You, Bishop Ramierz will kill the golden goose (United States) with your short sighted solution.

  4. While I agree with many of your comments this is no more the fault of the democrats than the republicans. Both parties seem aligned against the will of the people on this and many other issues!

    Todays politician of both parties have abandoned the people and are serving corporate and special interest many of them representing foreign interests rather than American.

    The true dysfunction is that the USCCB is representing interests contrary to the good of America and Americans with out any biblical justification.
    The other true dysfunction is that politicians OF BOTH PARTIES are betraying their oaths of office and representing interests contrary to the good of America and Americans for there own selfish gain!


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