WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI Sunday urged the United States not to divide immigrant families, but to protect them.
The pope first raised the issue as he was flying to Washington, then again when he met Wednesday with President George W. Bush, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Of the 65 million Roman Catholics in the United States, 18 million are Latino, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said.
Although Benedict has spoken of the need to protect immigrant families, he has avoided such thorny questions as the issue of whether to grant legal status to illegal immigrants, The Times said.
The pontiff's comments drew criticism from U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who accused the pope of engaging in "faith-based marketing."
Tancredo -- described by the newspaper as a former Catholic -- said Benedict's comments welcoming immigrants "may have less to do with spreading the Gospel than they do about recruiting new members of the Church."
Tancredo said it was not in the pope's "job description to engage in American politics."