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German bishops want help for illegal aliens

Catholic bishops in Germany say officials should rewrite laws that the church leaders think are detrimental to illegal aliens living in the country.

In an appeal issued on Monday in Bonn, the bishops also stressed their desire to stand up for the rights of illegal aliens.

"The pastoral and social care of these people now represents an important, established area of the church's work for people and is, by the church's own definition, a genuine part of its mission," the bishops wrote.

The appeal appears in a paper for Information and Reflection that was presented by Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the chairman of the Conference of German Bishops, and Bishop Josef Voss, the chairman of the immigration commission of the conference. It was released at a time when German politicians -- both those in power and in the opposition -- are trying to reshape the country's laws on immigration.

The church leaders said unlawful residence amounted to a "factual lack of rights in almost all areas of everyday life." Illegal aliens -- who number anything between 500,000 and one million -- are vulnerable to threats, blackmail and exploitation, they said.

Frankfurter Allegmaine