MISSION — Catholic leaders from across the southern border gathered in the Rio Grande Valley this week to discuss immigration, among other issues.

Catholic Bishops form the Texas-Mexico boarder walk to La Lomita Chapel hold mass on Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2020, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Each year, bishops from dioceses located along the Texas-Mexico border meet twice to talk about the “pastoral realities” that affect their congregations, according to a news release from the Diocese of Brownsville.

As part of that tradition, 12 bishops met Monday in San Juan and celebrated Mass at La Lomita Chapel in Mission on Tuesday evening. The religious leaders came from the dioceses of Matamoros, Saltillo, Nuevo Laredo, Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez and Piedras Negras in Mexico, and the dioceses of Brownsville, Laredo, San Antonio, San Angelo and El Paso.

Diocese of Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores said the group had a “fruitful discussion.”

“It helps us to understand better, especially how to help those immigrant families that are within our dioceses, especially the young people, the families that are struggling so much,” he said. “But also for the beauty of being able to celebrate Mass together and to ask the Lord for his grace and for his assistance as we seek that special help we need to be able to help others.”

The visit comes at a volatile time for the southern border, as federal courts debate the constitutionality of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a policy that forces asylum seekers to remain in Mexico as they await proceedings in the U.S.

As a result of that policy, thousands of Central and Southern American migrants have been left stranded at makeshift camps in Mexico, including one in Matamoros that has more than 3,000 people.

The federal government is also wrestling with the construction of new border wall fencing, and just Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it awarded a $179 million contract to a New Mexico company to construct 15 miles of fencing in Starr County.

Additionally, the new coronavirus threatened the movement of goods and people between both countries once again. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump indicated he was “very strongly” considering closing the southern border. On Tuesday, however, he backed down, saying there was no evidence of a problem in that area.

Bishop Daniel Flores holds mass as Catholic Bishops form the Texas-Mexico boarder gather at La Lomita Chapel on Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2020, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)