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Feature News | Thursday, February 10, 2022

Press conference: Children, yes. Politics, no.

Archbishop, other community leaders respond to Gov. DeSantis’ Miami visit

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Archbishop Thomas Wenski read this statement at a press conference held at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center, Feb. 10, 2022, in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ roundtable discussion on immigration during his visit to Miami, Feb. 7, 2022.

At Governor DeSantis’ Monday meeting with a few former Pedro Pan kids in Miami’s Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, he described any comparison of unaccompanied minors from Cuba in the early 60’s with those from Central America today as “disgusting”. This was a new low in the zero-sum politics of our divisive times. Children are children — and no child should be deemed “disgusting” — especially by a public servant.

The lack of solidarity of this group of former unaccompanied minors from Cuba with similarly situated children today was disappointing. Even while recognizing the good care afforded them by Catholic Charities 60 years ago, they begrudge that same care being extended to migrant children today. Msgr. Bryan O. Walsh, the revered “father” of the Operation Pedro Pan children, is rolling over in his grave.

The event was political theater attacking Biden’s admittedly chaotic immigration policies. It showed that the governor has a powerful machine in South Florida capable of mobilizing (and manipulating) a segment of our community to advance his political agenda — but his bullying of kids also showed weakness.

The success of the Pedro Pan kids made possible by the freedom and opportunity of this great land makes clear that magnanimity rather than mean-spiritedness is a “best practice” in resolving our immigration challenges.

Comments from readers

Teresa - 02/16/2022 05:39 PM
Governor Ron de Santis is trying to better the lives of Florida residents and avoid the trafficking of minors by coyotes that is actually happening. The children of Pedro Pan came to this country by plane, not crossing illegally the frontiers of this country.... DISGUSTING is that you are spending the donations people kindly send to ABCD Charities in a Paid Announcement attacking Governor Ron de Santis I just heard on the radio yesterday. This is dirty politics.... This attitude reminds me an article written by you attacking Wells Fargo because this corporation discontinued donations to the Archdiocese of Miami. Both attacks have a same denominator: Money.
Aramis Picante - 02/16/2022 07:06 AM
Dicit ei Pilatus: Quid est veritas? John 18:38
Mike - 02/15/2022 05:01 PM
It's really disappointing, but sadly not surprising that the Archdiocese of Miami and Archbishop Wenski decided to play politics and be patently dishonest about what Governor DeSantis said. For those that don't know, DeSantis said that comparing human trafficking (and all the that entails as it pertains to degradation of human dignity) with Pedro Pan is disgusting. This is true and should be noncontroversial. The reality is that the archdiocese believes attacking DeSantis is an opportunity to grow with hispanics (which is good) but believes they all want to be pandered to by adopting radical left wing ideology (which is not just bad, it is not accurate). It's no wonder the Church continues to shrink in numbers before our eyes. Do better.
Joseph - 02/15/2022 10:25 AM
Governor DeSantis never once called children disgusting. You are committing a sin by lying and bearing false witness to his statement. He called the comparison disgusting, which is accurate. Children that are escaping communist dictatorships are different from children being trafficked by coyotes. You’re too busy playing politics to even care about your own flock of children who you continue to require masks (with a ridiculous opt-out option). ADOM has fallen from grace due to your leadership (or lack thereof). Your continued support of anti-Catholic legislation and legislators is more telling than your supposed “excellence”. We made over $4000 in contributions to the ABCD last year, but we cannot in good conscience continue to support you and your destructive leadership.
Jose Gonzalez - 02/12/2022 12:05 PM
I believe that the Governor is correct. When there is a program in place to accept children to a caring environment I think no one will object to it. However, when you place children in a dangerous situation where they can be exploited or killed there is no comparison.
Pat Stockton - 02/11/2022 08:03 PM
As with other issues lately - ie COVID- this has been politicized as well. This is NOT about Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. This is a HUMANITARIAN issue, a FAITH issue , a FAITH that calls us to do JUSTICE. How can anyone who calls him/herself Catholic not see this? Please check this out: Gospel according to Matthew 25: 35-40! Thanks so much Archbishop Wenski & all who participated in the Press Conference yesterday. I strongly support your point of view.
Maria A (Toni) Miranda - 02/11/2022 06:38 PM
I was sent as a child to the USA at 13 years of age through the Peter Pan Program. I was given an opportunity and in a sense this country invested in me. I went to college, became a teacher and worked as an educator for many years and then as an administrator and contributed to my community, state and the USA. I am deeply disturbed by legislature that in its essence attacks and persecutes children who are under our care right now. What can possibly justify these actions? Where is our Christianity and where is our humanity? Do not politicize and persecute children. All children should be protected. Sincerely,
Maria A (Toni) Miranda - 02/11/2022 06:38 PM
I was sent as a child to the USA at 13 years of age through the Peter Pan Program. I was given an opportunity and in a sense this country invested in me. I went to college, became a teacher and worked as an educator for many years and then as an administrator and contributed to my community, state and the USA. I am deeply disturbed by legislature that in its essence attacks and persecutes children who are under our care right now. What can possibly justify these actions? Where is our Christianity and where is our humanity? Do not politicize and persecute children. All children should be protected. Sincerely,
Antonio Fernandez - 02/11/2022 02:24 PM
Strongly agree and support the message that Archbishop Thomas Wenski is presented here. Unfortunately, some of us are placing their political preferences over the word of the Lord that taught us to care for the weakest and poorest of our society. Cuban children that arrived in this Country found the open arms of the Catholic Church and many other caring and loving citizens and residents here in the USA that offered them open homes and hearts that helped those children to grow in a Country of freedom for all. They were cared, educated, protected and assisted until the great majority of them ended as professionals, leaders and contributors to our economy, education, professional life. They eventually became multipliers of those opportunities they received in their childhood for many others immigrants from other countries as well as for those born in this country. Those children that arrived from Cuba are not different from many that are now arriving here with the same needs, fears, uncertainties that we had. Children are children regardless their place of birth, regardless the color of their skin, regardless the faith or no faith of their parents, the reason their are running away from their counties searching for freedom… education… food… love… respect… dignity… safety…. Needs and circumstances may be different but they all are the same children of Good yesterday… today… tomorrow. Political issues and party differences cannot close the doors of our borders and hearts to any one in need! Every child is a creature of God… a child is nothing else than a potential woman or man that will make our Country and our World a better one.
Maria C Fernandez - 02/11/2022 02:19 PM
I am grateful to Archbishop Wensky and all the community leaders who spoke today in support of children. To use children as a commodity in political issues is abhorrent. Since when are children fleeing communism more valuable than children fleeing violence or hunger, among other things? We, as Christians should ask ourselves, what would Jesus do? I hope that humanity and compassion return to our governor and FL legislature.
Angie Fernández - 02/11/2022 02:12 PM
By virtue of our Baptism we are Called and have the responsibility to be witnesses of the Gospel. Jesus had the habit to eat and share life with those on the other side of the tracks!! Do we? MSGR Walsh Children’s Village is a Jesus presence in our community! The support, education and formation of children and youth is never disgusting... It is a building block of society. We are in a country of immigrants, and YES there have to be laws to guide life in society, however I ask —when children are victimized by corruption and injustice are we suppose to look the other way? Are children and youth disposable? By the grace of God I am a Pedro Pan child. Forever grateful to this country and Catholic Charities. Angie F Sent from my iPhone
Elena Muñoz - 02/11/2022 01:59 PM
I applaud all the speakers at yesterday’s press conference to condemn this cruel bill. But I cannot understand how some so called Christians and Catholics can support such an abhorrent position on the issue of immigrants, especially children. To be a Christian is to follow in Christ’s footsteps, He who welcomed children, the suffering, the oppressed, the foreigner, etc, should be an example of living as Christians and loving others as He loves us. And to Christians and non Christians, don’t be so heartless and think about what you would have wanted for your own children if they were in this situation. It is very easy to blame the traffickers, the coyotes and the like, and then go to bed each night with your self righteous conscience. Thanks to Archbishop Wenski for addressing and condemning this proposed bill.
Teresita Gonzalez - 02/11/2022 12:48 PM
I am proud to stand by our Archbishop, with the family and community leaders who gave their profound testimonies today. Let it be clear that Catholics stand for life and the dignity of the human person in all of its needs and vulnerable states. It is the lens of Christ that frees us from the confines of political categories, so that we can give a response to the vulnerable among us and in a very special way, to these vulnerable children. As man made structures, no political party will do right by our values as people of faith, therefore we must not sell our souls to any of them, as they lull us into a "dictatorship of indifference" that robs us of our religious language. Instead let us influence our politics to be guided by compassion and unity to transform the world. If we missed it, then this moment is to remind us precisely what the person of Christ was all about. With you in loving prayer and action.
Ana Maria Gonzalez - 02/11/2022 11:56 AM
The distortion of the Governor's statements is abhorrent. Further, the flagrant disregard for the laws and security of the United States by Catholic Charities, in partnering with the cartels and encouraging the migration of children, deliberately endangers and exposes the children to unimaginable abuses and evils along the way. This is a far cry from the legal, organized, and safe measures utilized during the Pedro Pan Operation. By the way, those were not "former Pedro Pan" children as stated above. They are forever Pedro Pan children, impacted by the circumstances endured by them and the parents and siblings left behind. I should know, I am a sibling of 2 Pedro Pan children. It is also for the above reasons that I no longer am supporting ABCD. I cannot allow for my contributions to be used in support of Catholic Charities for the illegal and dangerous trafficking of children.
Silvia Munoz - 02/11/2022 11:22 AM
I want to thank all who participated on the Press Conference and shared their experiences of arriving in this country as unaccompanied minors and being helped by the Archdiocese of Miami. The laws and executive orders of Governor DeSantis are unethical and immoral. It pains me to see how he has succeeded in dividing even further our community. It is sad to see friends, who came here as unaccompanied children and where helped by this country in conjunction with the Archdiocese, people who call themselves Christians, can't see the similarities between themselves and the children arriving today. I pray for all involved, that we may join hands in helping those in need as is our Christian duty. "...for I was a stranger and you welcomed me..." Mt 25:35
Andrew Meszaros - 02/11/2022 09:04 AM
Just to be clear: the Governer did NOT call any child "disgusting".
Lourdes - 02/11/2022 08:35 AM
Who did you pray to? Remember in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost? Amen. PS you are the politician here.

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