Catholic Leaders Step up Immigration Drive

Image: Catholic Leaders Step up Immigration Drive Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles marches with immigration reform demonstrators on May 1, 2010.

Thursday, 22 Aug 2013 09:40 AM

By Lisa Barron

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The Roman Catholic Church will make a major push next month for an overhaul of immigration policy in an effort to persuade Congress to support legislation that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Catholic bishops and priests from major dioceses across the country will preach in favor of immigration reform in a move that will also include advertising and phone calls directed at Catholic lawmakers and "prayerful marches" in districts where the issue is controversial, reports The New York Times.

'We want to try to pull out all the stops," Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the newspaper, adding, "They have to hear the message that we want this done, and if you're not successful during the summer, you're not going to win by the end of the year."

According to the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project, Catholics are the largest single religious group in Congress, accounting for just over 30 percent of its members; The House currently has 136 Catholic representatives, including Speaker John Boehner.

The Church is hoping public support by priests and bishops will persuade reluctant lawmakers to back an overhaul despite opposition by conservatives. "The connection between a pastor and their congregation is really like nothing else in society," Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, told the Times.

Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, acknowledged that Catholic leaders have taken part in outreach meetings with administration officials, telling the newspaper, "It's pretty rare for the Catholics to take on an issue like this straight to the pews. This is actually a much more across-the-church effort, and it shows. "

The effort by Catholic priests and bishops began last Thursday, the day of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and will continue through mid-October, when members of the lower chamber are expected to vote on immigration legislation.

Related: House Won't Vote on Immigration Bill Any Time Soon

Nearly a dozen major dioceses and archdioceses, including Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and San Antonio have reportedly committed to holding Masses or events on or around Sept. 8, while the Archdiocese of New York is apparently considering how it might take part.

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