Young Jesuit among 70 arrested during immigration rally in Washington DC

19 July 2019
American Jesuit William Critchley-Menor during an immigration rally in Washington DC. Image: Jesuit News/Twitter.


American Jesuit William Critchley-Menor has been arrested with 69 others during an immigration rally in Washington DC on Thursday, 18 July.

A few hundred Catholic activists, including priests and religious brothers and sisters, gathered on the Capitol Lawn in a “Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children” to urge US politicians to stop its “immoral and inhumane practice of detaining immigrant children” at the US-Mexico border, according to co-sponsor the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

“I’m here today with other Catholics standing in solidarity and support of migrant children who are being detained at the southern border,” William said in a video posted online before his arrest.

“We’re here because the treatment that [migrant children] are receiving is completely incompatible and contrary to the message of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.

“The Holy Father has called us to a revolution of tenderness and what’s taking place at the southern border for immigrant children – being ripped from their families, being placed in detention camps without knowing when they’ll be released – is the opposite of tenderness,” he explained.

The rally included times of prayer, a few songs and speeches, including statements from several US Bishops.

A statement by Bishop Mark J Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, read “St Oscar Romero reminded us, there are not two categories of people, some born to have everything and others who can’t enjoy the happiness that God has created for all. In this moment of injustice for migrants and the poor, we people of faith are called to work for justice.”

A message from Bishop Robert W McElroy from the Diocese of San Diego, California, read “we stand in a moment when our government has weaponised fear – the fear being sown within our nation as a whole that refugees and immigrants, who have been America’s historic lifeblood, have now become the enemy; and the even more reprehensible fear being unleashed upon the hearts and souls of immigrant mothers and fathers that they will be separated from their children purely as an act of intimidation.”

According to Catholic News Service (CNS), Sr Carol Zinn, a Sister of St Joseph of Philadelphia, told the group “Catholic sisters have a long history with immigrant communities. We have seen the pain, suffering, fear and trauma firsthand. In recent months, as the humanitarian crisis has escalated, we have joined the tens of thousands who are outraged at the horrific situation at our southern border.

“We are here today because of our faith. The Gospel commands, and the values of our homeland demand, that we act,” she added.

Following the rally, several attendees processed into the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda, where they engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and risked arrest.

According to CNS, prior to the arrests, participants held signs with messages and images of immigrant children in detention. After receiving warnings from police, those who chose to stay in the building’s rotunda recited the Hail Mary as they waited to be handcuffed and escorted out.

In a video posted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, William can be seen being led away by police as the activists recite the Hail Mary. Other footage posted online showed activists lying on the floor of the building.

The event was organised by a coalition of Catholic social justice organisations including the Ignatian Solidarity Network, Faith in Action, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States – Office of Justice and Ecology, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.


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