NEW YORK - Catholics and Jews risk losing their hard-won interfaith amity if they take ecumenism for granted and fail to pass it along to a new generation of seminarians and laity, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said in an address at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

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NEW YORK - Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York invited the Republican and Democratic candidates for president and vice president to sign a petition seeking civil dialogue and to refrain from personal attacks during the two months remaining in the campaign leading up to the November election.

The “Civility in America” petition developed by the Knights of Columbus calls on candidates, commentators and media representatives to focus on the important issues facing the country rather than on individual personalities.

“I am writing to you and to the other candidates for president and vice president of this great nation to ask for your support of this effort, so that the upcoming campaign will remain focused on the critical issues facing our nation and not on personal attacks,” Dolan said in letters to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic ticket, and Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominees for president and vice president, respectively.

The petition on the Knights of Columbus web site had gained more than 20,000 signatures through Aug. 27.

Dolan’s letter said that if the candidates signed the petition he would “be most happy to convey” to Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and to the 1.8 million members of the organization “that you have chosen to support this valuable effort.”

The cardinal cited the results of a Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll conducted July 9-11 that found 78 per cent of Americans are “frustrated with the tone in politics today.”

The poll also found that two-thirds of people said candidates spend more time attacking their opponents than addressing key issues and that 64 per cent of people believe negative campaigning harms the political process a great deal or a significant amount.

“That this perception exists cannot be healthy for our country or our democratic political process,” Dolan’s letter said. “‘Civility in America’ is giving voice to the desire of Americans of all backgrounds and political parties for more civil discourse during this election season.”

The cardinal, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was to deliver the closing prayer at both the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Clergy from several denominations are scheduled to pray at the opening and closing of each day’s sessions of the party conventions. The tradition of such prayers goes back more than 100 years.

It is unusual for the same person to pray at both conventions in the same year, but it’s not without precedent. For example, in 1948, Philadelphia Cardinal Dennis J. Dougherty prayed with both parties when the nominating conventions met in Philadelphia.

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