Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the senior figure in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, has called for a more welcoming approach to migrants in British national life.
During his Midnight Mass homily, delivered and broadcast on Christmas Eve (24 December 2007), the Cardinal said that the political debate about appropriate immigration controls should not lead to migrants themeselves being at the receiving end of hostility and suspicion.
The Cardinal declared: "Most immigrants come to our country because they wish to have a better life and work so as to provide for their families. What concerns me at the moment is our attitude as a nation to these many immigrants."
He continued: "Many of these people are trying, for perfectly good reasons, to enter Britain and they need to be welcomed. I understand that immigration needs to be controlled. However, sometimes they must feel like Joseph when he returned to Bethlehem after exile in Egypt, simply excluded because they are outsiders.”
During the address, broadcast live on BBC Radio 4, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said that the celebration of Christ’s birth was for everyone, not just for members of the churches.
Christians should make sure that "nothing and nobody remains untouched by the tidings of comfort and joy that came from heaven on the first Christmas night", he commented.
Churches of different traditions across Britain and Ireland have been united in their vocal support for migrants in recent years, questioning the assumptions behind both harsh political policies and tabloid scare-mongering.