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By Tim Murphy
Religion News Service

Washington – Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who heads the nation’s largest Catholic archdiocese, on Monday (July 28) urged presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to make immigration reform a top-level priority.
In a keynote address to the National Migration Conference here, Mahony, whose archdiocese has swelled from an influx of Hispanic immigrants, called the nation’s attitude toward immigrants “dangerous and unwelcoming.”
“A human being’s worth is defined by their God-given dignity, not by what papers they carry,” Mahony said.
The four-day conference, which ends Thursday, is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and various Catholic aid organizations.
Mahony framed the issue as a moral imperative, while taking a more conciliatory approach than he has in the past. Last December, he sent a letter to every presidential candidate asking them to tone down their rhetoric against undocumented immigrants, and in 2006, Mahony instructed his priests to ignore a federal immigration bill if it passed into law.
“While we acknowledge the right and need for our government to enforce the law, we must remind our fellow Americans that man-made law does not permit the violation of God’s law,” Mahony said.
The cardinal argued that Catholics have an obligation to protect immigrant families from being separated, and urged Americans to embrace a population he said could “help evangelize” society.
Immigrants have taken on an increasingly important role in the growth of the U.S. church as American-born Catholics leave the faith in large numbers. According to a study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 46 percent of immigrants identify themselves as Catholic, compared with 23 percent of the overall population.
In his visit to the United States last April, Pope Benedict XVI was critical of national immigration policy, which drew criticism from proponents for tighter border controls. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., a former Catholic, accused the pope of engaging in “faith-based marketing.”
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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