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," Cardinal 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 website had gained more than 20,000 signatures through Aug. 27.Cardinal Dolan's letter said that if the candidates signed the petition he would "be most happy to convey" to Supreme Knight Carl 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 percent of Americans are "frustrated with the tone in politics today." The poll also found that two-thirds of people contacted said candidates spend more time attacking their opponents than addressing key issues and that 64 percent 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," Cardinal 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 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 Sept. 6 in Charlotte, N.C.Cardinal Dolan accepted an invitation from the Democratic convention organizers to deliver the benediction on the last night of the Sept. 4-6 event, after clearing it with Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis, said Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese. Since the Charlotte convention is in his diocese, protocol would call for Bishop Jugis to have the say over whether a bishop from another diocese plays such a role. Zwilling's statement from the previous week announcing Cardinal Dolan's participation in the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., said the cardinal had cleared that activity with St. Petersburg Bishop Robert Lynch, whose diocese includes Tampa. "It was made clear to the Democratic Convention organizers, as it was to the Republicans, that the cardinal was coming solely as a pastor, only to pray, not to endorse any party, platform, or candidate," said Zwilling's statement. 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 Dougherty prayed with both parties when the nominating conventions met in Philadelphia. Nor does the local Catholic prelate always participate. At the 2008 conventions, neither Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver nor Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn., participated in the Democratic and Republican conventions, respectively, in their cities. Archbishop Chaput said he was never approached about it, and Archbishop Nienstedt said he declined. —CNSThe full text of Cardinal Dolan's letter can be read online at