Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics should be working to create a “culture of encounter” that shows charity and empathy to immigrants, said leaders of the U.S. bishops in a message this week.

“Our brothers and sisters who are forced to migrate suffer devastating family separation and most often face dire economic conditions to the point they cannot maintain a very basic level of living,” said  Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop José H Gomez of Los Angeles. “Refugees flee their countries due to war and persecution which inspires them to risk everything for an opportunity to live in peace.”

Cardinal DiNardo is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Gomez is the vice-president. Their message was released for National Migration Week, a time set aside for reflection on the struggles, benefits, and shared realities of migrant families.

In concordance with Pope Francis' recent intentions, the statement voiced hope for a “culture of encounter,” conducive to unity and shared aspirations. In recent years, families of refugees have been seeking asylum from countries in conflict, such as Sudan and Syria. Thousands of Iraqi Christians have been displaced under ISIS' persecution, mostly to refugee camps. The pain and suffering of migrating families are an opportunity for mercy, said the Catholic leaders.

ABC News reported on one couple who helped more than 100 Christian refugees relocate to America from Iraq. Appealing to America's heritage as a melting pot, both Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez called for reflection on the mercy shown to earlier generations of immigrants.

“As Catholics in the United States, most of us can find stories in our own families of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents leaving the old country for the promise of America,” they said, encouraging Americans to sympathize with people who have similar stories as their own forefathers.

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez also commented on overcoming the struggle of integration in the past. They said that “fear and intolerance” have tested the melting pot, but that we as a country have prevailed to be a society of inclusion. “Whether immigrating from Ireland, Italy or countless other countries, previous generations faced bigotry,” they said, urging that National Migration Week be used as an opportunity to work for both secure borders and an embrace of the most vulnerable.