The U.S. bishops’ conference on Thursday sharply rejected claims by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon that the bishops support undocumented immigrants in order to fill churches and make money.

“It is preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn’t central to Catholic teaching. It comes directly from Jesus Himself in Matthew 25, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food…a stranger and you welcomed me,’” said James Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

“Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Bannon, who was the White House chief strategist before leaving the Trump administration on Aug. 18, told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” host Charlie Rose, in an interview set to air on Sunday evening, that he thought the U.S. bishops support illegal immigration because of a cynical “economic interest.”

When asked by Rose about the Trump administration’s announcement that they would be phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), Bannon defended the decision. Rose pressed Bannon on it, noting that he is a Catholic and that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York – among other Church leaders – opposed the administration’s ending of the program. 

“The Catholic Church has been terrible about this,” Bannon said, in comments reported on on Thursday morning. 

The bishops, he said, “need illegal aliens to fill the churches” and “have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”

He added that, on immigration, “this is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation.”

Rogers, speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said on Thursday afternoon that Bannon’s claim of the bishops having an “economic interest” in “unlimited illegal immigration” was “outrageous and insulting.”

“The Bible is clear: welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith,” Rogers said.

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Full story at Catholic News Agency.