PARIS ( - France's Catholic bishops on Tuesday called on the government to allow undocumented, illegal immigrants currently living in France to live there legally, and then defended the Church's right to provide refuge to illegal aliens who are afraid they will be deported.

      The bishops' letter, entitled "I Have Seen Poverty Among My People," urged the government to grant permission to may more illegal immigrants, especially single people who are less likely to receive permission than families. The letter did not ask for blanket amnesty, but called for a case-by-case look at application to determine the neediest.

      The document also defended the right of churches to shelter illegal immigrants and called on followers to think about ways to help undocumented immigrants. In recent years, Paris churches have been repeatedly occupied by illegal immigrants demanding residency, often with the permission of the pastor, and were subsequently evicted by police. The Socialist government has ruled out a "papers for all" policy, but has offered to reconsider immigrants on an individual basis.

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April 8, 1998 volume 9, no. 70         DAILY CATHOLIC