LA's Archbishop Gomez joins Catholic churches nationwide urging Congress to pass immigration reform

L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez greets parishioners after a mass devoted to immigration reform September 8.
L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez greets parishioners after a mass devoted to immigration reform September 8.
Rina Palta / KPCC

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A near-capacity crowd on Sunday filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a mid-morning mass to hear a message aimed not only at the parish, but Washington D.C.

"Today, we are praying for immigration reform in our country," L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez told the congregation. "I think we need to pray for ourselves and our leaders in Congress, because immigration is a difficult issue and good people disagree."

That's certainly true of Southern California, where congressional representatives have differed on what the ultimate goal of immigration reform should be. And GOP leaders have said they prefer a step-by-step approach.

On a national level, while the U.S. Senate passed a sweeping overhaul of the country's immigration system, the bill still lingers in the House of Representatives. Congress returns from recess Monday amidst a nationwide push from Catholic leaders to get an immigration bill passed before the end of the year.

On Sunday, Catholic churches in at least 22 states offered coordinated masses calling for reform. The church is also encouraging members to write and call lawmakers on the issue.

"It's not normal for a country of immigrants to not have a good system in place to welcome immigrants," Gomez said to reporters outside the cathedral, before greeting parishioners. 

It's not the first time Gomez – himself an immigrant from Mexico – has spoken about immigration reform from the pulpit. He's devoted past masses to speaking about the controversial issue. Earlier this summer, he released a book: "Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation."

Gomez framed immigration reform as a moral issue. The Catholic Church also has a demographic stake in the fight. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, "about six-in-ten U.S. Hispanics are Catholic" compared to about 22 percent of the general public.

Gomez said his own congregation is incredibly diverse. Within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, priests offer masses in 42 different languages.

"Los Angeles is just a beautiful cosmopolitan city," Gomez told reporters. "This is a wonderful example of how we can all live together and work together for the common good."