Roman Catholic leaders in Orange and Los Angeles counties marked Ash Wednesday—the start of a season of repentance and reflection—with a plea to Catholics and others to commit themselves to immigration reform.
In Orange County, the church asked people to fast—consuming liquids only—for one day between March 26 and 30 as an appeal for citizenship opportunities for undocumented immigrants and reductions in visa application backlogs for the families of immigrants.
The church also called for a temporary worker program.
In Los Angeles, before 3,000 people at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said his focus for Lent would be the children of immigrants.
At St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim, Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto, a longtime champion of immigrant rights, proposed that parishioners fast to reflect on the problem.
One Catholic, Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, a border patrol group that fights illegal immigration, did not appreciate the Ash Wednesday message.
“It goes to show you that the Catholic Church has no scruples when it comes to separation of church and state. The church should stay out of government business unless it wants to lose its tax-exempt status,” Gilchrist said.
Still, the plea was widely applauded by those who attended in Los Angeles and Anaheim.