Archbishop Resettles Syrian Refugee Family in Indianapolis Despite Governor's Objections

Assyrians hold banners as they march in solidarity with the Assyrians abducted by Islamic State fighters in Syria earlier this week, in Beirut, Feb. 28, 2015. ((Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir))

A Catholic Archbishop has helped to resettle a family of Syrian refugees in his archdiocese, despite being asked by the governor of his state not to do so.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis issued a statement today confirming that the family of four arrived safely in the city on Monday evening.

He said he had informed Governor Mike Pence, who last week urged Tobin not to assist with the move, prior to the family's arrival.

The two met last week after the diocese said it had received offers of private assistance to fund the family's relocation, which would make up for government aid which has been blocked by Pence.

He was among 30 governors who asked the Obama administration to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the US over security concerns in the wake of the Paris attacks on November 13.

"I thank Governor Pence for meeting with me last Wednesday, when I was able to explain in some detail the plight of this family as well as the role of the Archdiocese's Refugee and Immigrant Services program in welcoming them to Indianapolis, where the family already has some relatives," Tobin said in his statement today.

"I listened to the governor's concerns regarding security and prayerfully considered his request that we defer from welcoming them until Congress had approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees.

"I informed the Governor prior to the family's arrival that I had asked the staff of Catholic charities to receive this husband, wife and their two small children as planned."

The Archbishop said welcoming refugees was "an essential part" of the Christian identity.

"Three years ago, this family fled the violence of terrorists in their homeland of Syria," he added. "We welcome this family during Advent, a time when the Christian community asks God to renew our hope and recognize God's saving power among us.

"As we wait with hope during this season of Advent, I ask all people of good will to pray for peace in our homes, local communities and throughout the world."

Pence has responded to the latest development by saying he "respectfully disagrees" with Archbishop Tobin's decision.

"Prior to the terrorist attacks in Paris, which involved a Syrian refugee as one of the attackers, the Obama Administration's own FBI Director said there are 'gaps' in the Syrian refugee resettlement program," a statement from his office said.

"Yesterday, the Chairman of the US House Homeland Security Committee stated that 'The US government has information to indicate that individuals tied to terrorist groups in Syria have already attempted to gain access to our country through the US refugee program.'

"Despite these facts, the Administration continues to ignore calls from governors of both parties, as well as a bipartisan majority in the US House, to pause and strengthen the program.

"The safety and security of the people of Indiana is Governor Pence's top priority. The State of Indiana will continue to suspend its participation in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana until the federal government takes action to address the concerns raised about this program."

Officials trying to block Syrian refugees from entering the US have been accused of fear-mongering and contributing to Islamophobia.

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