USCCB News Release
August 7, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. Bishops Congratulate Olympic Athlete Lopez Lomong On Selection As Flag Bearer For U.S. Olympic Team
WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) today expressed congratulations to Lopez Lomong, Olympian athlete and former refugee from Sudan, for being chosen as the flag bearer for the U.S. Olympic team at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said that the choice of Lomong by the Olympic team highlights the United State’s traditional role as a safe haven for persecuted around the world.
Lopez Lomong escaped the Sudanese civil war with other Sudanese youth—known as the "lost boys of Sudan"—in the 1990s and was resettled to the United States in 2001. Upon his arrival in the United States, Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the USCCB helped resettle Lomong. Each year the United States welcomes up to 60,000 refugees from around the world, with MRS/USCCB and Catholic dioceses across the country assisting about one-quarter of them.
"Lopez Lomong’s selection to lead the U.S. Olympic team will remind the world that the United States remains a beacon of hope for refugees around the globe, and will remind all Americans of our history as a welcoming nation," Bishop Wester said. "It will be a proud moment, not only for Lopez and his fellow Olympians, but also for our nation."
Ambassador Johnny Young, executive director of MRS/USCCB, also applauded the action by the Olympians.
"It is incredible to think that a young boy who fled violence in his home country is now the flag bearer for his new country at the Olympics," said Young. "It is a testament to the U.S. refugee program and shows us that former refugees have much to contribute to our nation. It also demonstrates that a generous U.S. refugee policy can save lives and that the Catholic Church can play a role in that," he said.Lomong, a Catholic, became a U.S. citizen in 2007.