August 23rd, 2013
10:12 AM ET

Note to all Catholic lawmakers: expect to be getting a call from your local archdiocese.

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN)–With the goal of urging the House to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Catholic Church is organizing a targeted effort to push immigration reform in the pews and target Catholic lawmakers – particularly Republicans – who may be on the fence over the politically tenuous bill.

The movement, which was first reported in The New York Times, will include coordinated immigration reform sermons on September 8, as well as targeted messaging of Catholic lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate.

“It is a critical time for the fate of the bill,” said Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The House is dragging its feet and a lot of those who are on the fence are Catholic. They need to hear the message of the church on this.”

Talk of immigration – for the most part – has been quiet this summer. After the Senate passed an immigration reform bill, the House left Washington for vacation in July after not bringing up the plan. Many Republicans have cast doubt on passing an immigration bill.

The Catholic Church has been outspoken about the issue since it was discussed after the 2012 presidential election. “We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy,” Pope Francis tweeted in July.

For the church, embracing immigration reform serves two purposes, said Appleby: supporting the gospel and responding to “the institutional issues of the church.”

Hispanics – a group widely associated with immigration reform – make up nearly 40 percent of Catholic Church. And according to church figures, since 1960, 71% of the U.S. Catholic population growth has been due to the growth in the number of Hispanics in the U.S. population overall.

“We would be derelict in our duties,” said Appleby, “if we didn’t respond to people in our pews that need our help.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Immigration • Mass • United States

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