A group from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee will walk along the Arizona-Mexico border Tuesday to remember the deaths of migrants in the U.S. desert and to pray for immigration reform.
The gathering aims to create awareness of the suffering caused by a broken immigration system and will conclude with a mass to honor 6,000 people who have died attempting to cross the border since 1998.
"What we fail to remember in this (immigration) debate is the human aspect of immigration, that immigration is primarily about human beings, not economic or social issues," Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on migration, said in a statement. "Those who have died, and those deported each day, have the same value and innate God-given dignity as all persons, yet we ignore their suffering and their deaths."
The event takes after the example of Pope Francis who traveled to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa last summer to celebrate mass and remember African migrants who died attempting to reach Europe by crossing the sea from North Africa.
During his message, Pope Francis urged participants to acknowledge the suffering many have endured and denounced the "throwaway culture" that he says disposes of human beings in the pursuit of wealth.
"The U.S.-Mexico border is our Lampedusa," Elizondo said. "Migrants in this hemisphere try to reach it, but often die in the attempt."
He added, "Hopefully by highlighting the harsh impact the system has on our fellow human beings, our elected officials will be moved to reform it."
In solidarity with this event, masses and special prayers will be hosted throughout various churches in the country. In addition, Catholics are being asked to fast during the day, and contact members of Congress to urge them to support comprehensive immigration reform.
Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, who learned about the difficulties faced by immigrants during his 20-year ministry when he worked with undocumented refugees, along with several other bishops who serve along the border will join the group and are also urging Catholics to create a movement via social media and through organized rallies.
The USCCB will spend time with migrants served at the Kino Border Initiative for deported migrants in Mexico before crossing back over to Nogales, Ariz., for the mass ceremony.
According to Humane Borders, an organization that offers medical and food assistance to migrants walking through the desert, many Mexicans and Central Americans die before reaching the U.S. due to severe dehydration. Since 2001, the organization has reported over 2,000 deaths alone within close distance to Pima County, Ariz.
To view the mass live on Tuesday, click here.