News & Media

In Keynote Remarks, Cardinal Peter Turkson Calls for End of Economy Of Exclusion And A Pointed Letter From Pope Francis Speaks Directly To The Fear Facing Immigrant Families In The U.S.

PICO National Network

February 17, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 17, 2017

Contact: Jennifer Farmer, jfarmer@piconetwork.org, 202-306-0136


In Keynote Remarks, Cardinal Peter Turkson Calls for End of Economy Of Exclusion And A Pointed Letter From Pope Francis Speaks Directly To The Fear Facing Immigrant Families In The U.S.

Nearly 700 Faith and Community Leaders from 12 Countries Kick Off Four-Day Meeting Tackling Racism, Immigration, Access to Jobs, Housing and Environmental Justice


MODESTO, Calif. – Last night, the Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Turkson delivered a stirring address to nearly 700 faith and community leaders from 12 countries, urging them to stand together to end the global economy of exclusion. The cardinal’s remarks come as part of the first U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements, which runs February 16-19.

Cardinal Turkson surprised the crowd by first reading a poignant letter from Pope Francis in both English and Spanish. Pope Francis, who has been vocal about on immigration in recent weeks has urged communities around the world to welcome people fleeing their homelands in the midst of crisis wrote in the letter:

“The grave danger is to disown our neighbors. When we do so, we deny their humanity and our own humanity without realizing it; we deny ourselves, and we deny the most important Commandments of Jesus.

“Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates. The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a ‘non-neighbor.’ I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity.”

The pope’s letter closed by asking the crowd to continue to push forward in their work and root it in love and in truth, “I ask you for meekness and resolve to defend these principles. I ask you not to barter them lightly or apply them superficially. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, let us give everything of ourselves: where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, let us sow pardon; where there is discord, let us sow unity; where there is error, let us sow truth.”  

In his own remarks, Cardinal Turkson reminded WMPM participants, “Coming together like this is best handled with global solidarity. Together we cannot be broken. Together we can face the challenges we’ve identified as exclusion. Solidarity means confronting the destructive effects of the empire of money … Let us seek for others the same opportunities we seek for ourselves. If we want security, if we want life, then let us give security to others, if we want opportunities, then let us give opportunities to others.”

Addressing issues of immigration specifically, the Cardinal noted, “Walls are built to keep some in and others out,” before asking “Is this the life that God desires for his children?”

Organized by the Vatican office of Integral Human Development, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and PICO National Network, the regional meeting is a follow-up to three larger international meetings held in Rome in Oct. 2014 and Nov. 2016 and Bolivia in July 2015. Each meeting was designed to deepen relationships between grassroots movements and the faith community.

"I am thankful the organizers of the World Meeting of Popular Movements understand the importance of the youth voice and have created a space at the table for my generation to weigh in on important issues,” said 18-year-old Alfredo Acosta, a student at Sacramento’s Luther Burbank High School and a member of the community non-profit Brown Issues.

Pastor Trena Turner, executive director of Faith in the Valley, an affiliate of PICO National Network, acknowledged that 25 undocumented immigrants who registered to participate in the conference decided that given the current climate, it was not safe for them to travel.

“I’m here for my friends who didn’t travel with me out of fear of the new administration’s recent executive orders impacting immigrant communities,” said Molly Hemstreet, owner of Opportunity Threads NC, a worker-owned cut and sew textile company. “So I’m here to build and strengthen a fair economy, I’m here to remember that economic and social solutions must confront the sickness of racism and those that suffer from exclusion. I’m here to ultimately return to my home stronger, with more ideas and strategies that will restore hope to my community.”

As a part of the first day of the four-day meeting, Juan Grabois, co-founder of the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy, led a panel discussion on the global economy of exclusion, corporate power, extraction of natural resources and the marginalization of poor, disenfranchised and excluded groups. Joseph Mckellar, deputy director of PICO California and Lorena Melgarejo of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Faith in Action Bay Area, also participated in the panel, which highlighted the importance of grassroots organizations in solving the greatest challenges facing society.

“We are not going to be silent. We are the protagonists, we’re here to tear down the walls of indifference. We have to do what Jesus asked us to do a long time ago, love your neighbor. The work that matters isn’t what we do over the next four days, the work is what we do on Monday when we get back to our neighborhoods.” Melgarejo said.

Today’s plenary sessions will focus on racism and migration. Speakers include:

  • Dr. john a. powell, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, UC-Berkeley
  • Bishop Shelton Fabre, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux
  • Pastor Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister, United Church of Christ
  • Jose Arrellano, Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles, CA
  • Arthur McFarland, Charleston Area Justice Ministry, Charleston, SC
  • Fr. Michael Czerny, S.J, Under-Secretary, Vatican’s Section for Migrants and Refugees
  • Archbishop José Horacio Gómez, Archdiocese of Los Angeles
  • Andrea Cristina Mercado, National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Zahra Billoo, Council on American-Islamic Relations

On Saturday, participants will focus on work and housing, as well as land and the environment. Speakers include:

  • Dr. Steven Pitts, Center for Labor Research and Education, UC-Berkeley
  • Diane Yentel, National Low-Income Housing Coalition
  • Bishop Robert McElroy, Diocese of San Diego
  • Bleu Rainer, Fight for $15/SEIU, Tampa, FL
  • Lucas Benitez, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, FL
  • Jennifer Martinez, Faith in Action Bay Area, CA
  • Cathy Levine, BREAD, Columbus, OH
  • Bishop Oscar Cantú, Diocese of Las Cruces
  • Nayyirah Shariff, the Flint Democracy Defense League
  • Thomas Joseph II, True North Organizing Network
  • Maria Perez, ARISE, Alamo, TX
  • Micaela Lewis, Chuukese Community of the Big Island, Honolulu, HI
  • Bob Agres, Hawai’i Alliance for Community Based Economic Development 

**Yesterday’s photo roundup can be found here**

**Plenary sessions can be watched on Livestream via popularmovements.org** 


PICO National Network is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. PICO works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 45 local and state federations. PICO and its federations are non-partisan and do not endorse or support candidates for office. PICO urges people of faith to consult their faith traditions for guidance on specific policies and legislation. Learn more at www.piconetwork.org.