St. Petersburg Bishop holds service supporting refugees

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The new Bishop of the St. Petersburg Catholic Diocese said he was overwhelmed by the size of the crowd at a service to support refugees who may not be admitted to America - after the president's order suspending the arrival of refugees from around the world.

"I did not know what to expect when I called for it," said Bishop Gregory Parkes, who is in his fourth week in office.

Parishioner Maria Lara sees her own experience as a native of Peru in refugees of today. She banded with hundreds more who filled the sanctuary at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon Wednesday.

"I was an immigrant 43 years ago," she said. "This country has opened the door for everybody, this country is free."

They came to hear the Bishop. Parkes told the church that Christians ought to believe every life has dignity.

This isn't politics, he says. It's spiritual.

"We are humanitarian, we try to be compassionate," he said. "It is on those occasions where we do feel, on those occasions that it is necessary to pray in a public way and to make it known. That is what we are doing in support of our brothers and sisters in need."

But a new Reuters poll shows that 49 percent of Americans agree with the president's restrictions, compared to 41 who disagree.

The White House press secretary cited those polls Wednesday in defense of the three-month order blocking immigrants from seven so-called countries of concern.

We spoke to several at TIA who agree with Trump and Spicer.

"ISIS, they just scare me to death, what they are going to do," one traveler said.

"The object is to make America secure and safe," said Timothy Dougherty of New Port Richey. "Right now, we have a problem throughout the world of people coming from those areas, that have caused havoc."

Those against the president's order argue that refugees are already closely screened, and point out that none from the seven restricted countries have taken part in deadly attacks in America.

Dina Rodriguez of Brandon hopes Wednesday night's prayer from Brandon is felt worldwide.

"The definition of Catholic is 'universal,'" she said. "We are one. We are one united. That message needs to come out."