Rep. Tom Tancredo – who vied for the Republican presidential nomination to make illegal immigration a priority issue – suggested in a House speech yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI is encouraging Latin Americans to come to the U.S. to bolster flagging membership in the Catholic Church.

The pontiff, asked by reporters on his flight to the U.S. Tuesday if he would address Hispanic immigration, said the U.S. must do “everything possible to fight … all forms of violence so that immigrants may lead dignified lives.”

Tancredo, a former Catholic, told House colleagues, “I would like to know what part of our lax immigration policy is considered ‘violent.’ I fail to see how accepting more refugees than any other nation while providing free health care, free education, free housing and free social service benefits to millions of illegal aliens in this country is any way ‘degrading’ to them or ‘undignified.'”

See Tancredo’s speech

About 40 percent of the 70 million Catholics in the U.S. are Hispanic.

Tancredo also took exception to the pope telling U.S. bishops Wednesday in Washington, “I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials and to help them flourish in their new home.”

The Colorado congressman, who now attends an evangelical church in suburban Denver, suggested the pope’s comments were, in part, an attempt to recruit more Catholics.

“I suspect the pope’s immigration comments may have less to do with spreading the gospel than they do about recruiting new members of the church,” he said. “This isn’t preaching, it is faith-based marketing.”

Tancredo opened his remarks on the House floor by welcoming the pope to the U.S. and commending the Vatican for its strong voice for religious freedom and for helping defeat communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

But the lawmaker said “most Americans might be surprised the pope isn’t here just to minister to his flock. He’s also here to lobby for amnesty for illegal aliens.”

Tancredo said Benedict “added his voice to the open borders lobby by encouraging the president to give the 20 to 30 million illegal aliens in this country a free pass to stay here.”

“I’m not taking issue with the pope’s moral authority,” Tancredo said. “I respect his views on the threats of Islam and the sanctity of human life, but I don’t think it’s in his job description to engage in American political activity.”


If you would like to sound off on this issue, participate in today’s WND Poll.


Previous stories:


Previous columns:

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.