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Catholic Bishop Zubik prays for immigration reform

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Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, 10:36 p.m.

Accompanied by parishioners praying the rosary in both English and Spanish, the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh led a prayer for comprehensive immigration changes on Sunday afternoon in St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.

“Tonight we are joining with many other parishes around the country to pray for our legislators, that they might effect a fair and just immigration reform,” Bishop David Zubik said. “We are part of a country that is what it is because of immigrants, and we hope for the wisdom of legislators, that they notice this and pave the way for many others.”

About 100 parishioners attended, and many kept up when the Our Fathers and Hail Marys switched from English to Spanish.

“It's a matter of making sure our policies are fair to everyone, not punitive,” Zubik said after the evening prayer and benediction, noting that his grandparents were immigrants. “We need to give the immigrants of our century the same latitude that we gave the immigrants of the last century.”

The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill this year, but the House has not signaled any willingness to take it up in what remains of the year.

The Obama administration has focused on making smaller changes to immigration rules, such as a program allowing young illegals a reprieve from deportation under certain conditions, or another change that would “parole in place” illegal immigrant spouses, children and parents of U.S. service members, reservists and veterans.

Pope Francis has called for a World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Jan. 14.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, questioned why the Catholic Church would lobby for immigration changes as a black-and-white moral issue, similar to its stance on abortion or euthanasia. Immigration policy, he said, was far more like tax policy in its areas of gray.

“I try to avoid cynicism and the idea that the church is trying to lobby for more warm bodies in the pews, but it's hard not to,” Krikorian said. “I'm not saying that there's no moral component to immigration, but the way the church is weighing into this is trying to make it a black-and-white issue.”

Zubik's prayer service did not include many specifics of what the church was praying for. The United States Conference of Bishops' platform for immigration change includes:

• “Earned legalization” for immigrants who can pass a background check and pay a fine.

• A legal path for immigrants to cross borders for work.

• More measures to keep immigrant families together.

• Elimination of some of the penalties in the 1996 Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

• Measures allowing enforcement to focus on illegal immigrants who pose risks to public safety, rather than families seeking work.

• Ways to address the root causes in immigrants' countries of origin that lead them to risk crossing into the United States illegally.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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