NEW YORK (CNS) — Cardinal Timothy M. 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,” 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. (See the full text of the letters.)

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 A. Anderson and to the 1.8 million members of the organization “that you have chosen to support this valuable effort.”

(Related story: Cardinal Dolan to pray at close of both parties’ conventions)

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 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.