Archbishop José H. Gomez called for mercy and an end to deportations during an interfaith prayer service Nov. 10 for peace, solidarity and unity at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“In this country, we need to start building bridges and bringing people together,” he said. “We need to reach out to those who are hurting. Now is the time to build unity and heal communities, through our love for our neighbor and our care for those in need. That’s what tonight is about. Not politics. It’s about people.”
The archbishop and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti organized the prayer service as a sign of unity and solidarity amid the uncertainty and fear that has followed the Nov. 8 elections. The archbishop drew particular attention to immigrant communities.
“Tonight in America, children are afraid. Men and women are worried and anxious, thinking about where they can run and hide. This is happening tonight, in America,” the archbishop said.
“The answer is not angry words or violence in the streets. It never solves anything. It only inflames it more. We need to be people of peace, people of compassion. Love not hate. Mercy not revenge,” he added. “These are the tools to rebuild our nation and renew the American dream. Tonight we promise our brothers and sisters who are undocumented — we will never leave you alone.”
During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to undo what he called President Barack Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders. Those executive actions included protections for children of undocumented immigrants. Despite Obama’s measures, as the archbishop noted, more than two million have been deported in the last eight years.
“No one seems to care. Except that little girl or little boy who comes home at night — and he or she knows his or her father isn’t there anymore,” he said. The U.S. bishops have been calling for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system for more than 15 years.
“Let’s pray tonight, in a special way — that our leaders will find it in their hearts to make a beautiful, humanitarian gesture,” the archbishop added. “Let’s pray that they can come together, in a spirit of national unity, and agree to stop the threat of deportations — until we can fix our broken immigration system.”
Mayor Garcetti called for solidarity among all people of faith.
“People turn to God in moments like this, he said. “The divisions of this last week, and for these past months, have in many ways torn us apart.”
While hundreds prayed in the cathedral, hundreds of Trump protestors gathered in the streets of Downtown Los Angeles for a second consecutive night. The mayor, while applauding the “new generation” for “expressing themselves,” asked that they “respect people’s property” and be more careful with where they marched.
“It’s never good to play on the freeway,” he said, referring to the Nov. 9 protestors who blocked the 101. “I hope President-elect Trump will hear our feelings, not just in this city, but in our country, and that he will seek to understand.”
The archbishop and the mayor were joined by Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder and senior rabbi of the Ikar Jewish Community of Los Angeles, Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Reverend Najuma Smith-Pollard of the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement and Father Alexei Smith, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest who heads the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
“These are no longer ordinary times,” Rabbi Brous said. “Now it is upon all of us to respond to the millions of immigrants, to the Muslims, to the people of color, to LGBT people and people with disabilities — all of those who have been threatened by the vicious rhetoric of the past year and a half. We are with you now and every day for the next four years and far beyond that.”