TRENTON, NJ - For Catholics, comprehensive immigration reform in the United States is a moral imperative that supersedes political persuasion, according to Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Diocese of Trenton, in a pastoral statement issued in observance of Justice for Immigrants Sunday, July 14. 

JFI Sunday was designated by Bishop O’Connell as a day in which the faithful in parishes across Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties are encouraged to pray for positive movement toward fair immigration policies. The issue was put before the faithful through special prayer petitions and focused homilies, as well as through the distribution of informational material about the fair immigration initiative spearheaded by the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops.

Bishop O’Connell’s statement, which was sent to the diocese’s 109 parishes, reads, “Whatever we, as Catholics, can do to foster the hopes and dreams of those who see our country as their potential home is an imperative of the Gospel and of the Catholic Social Teaching based upon it, not of our political persuasion. Prayer is a powerful prerogative and something that all of us can do. I believe that with all my heart and soul.

“As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I ask all Catholics and those who believe with us, to put aside any partisan differences to pray for all our immigrant sisters and brothers . . . that they too might know the "liberty and justice for all" that is the foundation of this land we love . . . ”

The push for comprehensive immigration reform throughout the Catholic Church in the U.S. is drawn upon the now 10-year-old pastoral letter issued by the Catholic bishops of the United States entitled "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope." The principles enunciated in that letter were echoed in a recent pastoral statement of the Catholic bishops of New Jersey, strongly advocating the reform of a badly broken system in our country.

The key principles on immigration reform called for by the Church’s leaders are: a path to citizenship for the undocumented that is achievable, is set within a reasonable timeframe and includes the maximum number of persons; a system that protects the integrity of families; a program that allows low-skilled migrant workers to enter and work in the United States legally and safely, providing them with the option to apply for permanent residency and eventual citizenship.


Bishop O’Connell reflects in his statement, “That something significant and substantial needs to be done is hardly arguable. How best to accomplish that goal continues to be a source of debate, even division within our nation.

“Sadly, people are quick to paint the issues involved with political and partisan brushes, thereby adding to the polarization and the delay in resolution. Comprehensive immigration reform is not Washington's problem. It is a concern for all citizens of our country as well as those who hope to be, much as it was for our ancestors who arrived here with hopes for and dreams of a better life, "under God, with liberty and justice for all."

In addition to JFI Sunday, Bishop O’Connell also recently announced a diocesan Justice for Immigrants Mass, slated for Oct. 11. An invitation has been extended to faithful throughout the diocese, and all those who share in this cause, to gather in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, for the 12:15 Mass.

To learn more about the Justice for Immigrants campaign, go to   To access the NJ Catholic bishops’ letter on immigration, visit: