Catholic leaders celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II at nation’s capital
Hundreds of Catholics gathered on April 27, 2011 in Washington, D.C., for the 7th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, including Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and many other members of the Knights of Columbus. The program featured several distinguished speakers, including Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who delivered the keynote address.
In anticipation of Pope John Paul II’s beatification in Rome on May 1, 2011, the theme of the event was “Celebrating the Beatification of Pope John Paul the Great.” In his keynote address, Bishop Lori praised Pope John Paul II in his defense of religious freedom. He also drew on themes from his pastoral letter entitled “Let Freedom Ring,” published in October 2010 in response to a growing secular mindset and judicial and legislative actions opposed to religious freedom.
“Just as freedom of religion is the first of the freedoms in our own Bill of Rights, so also John Paul II taught us that religious freedom is the core of all human rights,” Bishop Lori observed in his address.
“John Paul II’s witness to human freedom and dignity strikes a deep chord in our nation, where religious freedom is enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution and where we as a people have always believed that God, and not the State, is the source of those rights,” he said.
The breakfast program, which began with a recitation of the rosary, included remarks by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action. The event also provided attendees with opportunities for networking and browsing exhibit tables of sponsoring organizations.
Clarifying the distinction between church and state, Bishop Lori reflected on the essential relationship between truth and freedom and the necessity of recognizing the spiritual dimension of the human person.
“John Paul II deeply understood the importance of human autonomy and he firmly rejected any notion that religious truth should be imposed on others or that modern democracies should be dominated by the Church,” he explained.
“What he vigorously taught was this essential truth: the denial of the transcendence of the human spirit — whether by totalitarian governments or by deformations of liberal democracy — threatens human autonomy and freedom like nothing else.”
Bishop Lori and other speakers appealed to Catholic Americans of all ages to seek ways to effectively witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and proclaim the Gospel of life.
“Surely, we have much to learn from the wise and canny manner in which Cardinal Wojtyła dealt with the Polish Communist authorities of his day — that astute mix of subtlety and public pressure which those authorities came so to fear,” Bishop Lori said.
“Now is the time for us to build on the example of Pope John Paul II in inviting and in raising up new generations of young Catholic leaders who will go beyond the political and cultural impasses of the present and proclaim the Gospel with fresh hope, insight, and conviction; young people who will use their own means of communication and their own life-experience to proclaim that Gospel which is capable of transforming the world.”