.- During the 4th National Catholic Prayer breakfast, both the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, and the Archbishop of Washington DC, Donald Wuerl, stressed the need to bring a strong Catholic witness to the public square.
The event, held at the Washington Hilton, gathered more than 2,500 Catholics, including such Bishops Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia and Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin. Also in attendance were Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ).
“Catholics need three things to provide an effective witness to their faiths in the Catholic square,” Archbishop Sambi said. “Catholics in the US need first and foremost, a clear identity of who they are.”
“Second, they need a strong sense of belonging… belonging to a community that nurtures and supports all its members,” the Apostolic Nuncio continued.
“Third, they need certain exceptional qualities: exceptional spiritual, personal, family and community qualities because, being a minority, they have to make an impact based on excellence more than numbers.”
The Archbishop of Washington started his speech recalling that the United Stated was founded by persons who believed in personal freedom, but also in “the sovereignty of God and God’s law in our personal and societal life.”
After briefly recounting the religious foundations of the United States – from the Mayflower Compact to the Declaration of Independence - Archbishop Wuerl recalled that the cornerstone of the American experience is “our deep-seated conviction that we have inalienable rights from ‘the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.’”
For us, he added, “the understanding of God’s law at work and discernable through our rational nature also finds resonance in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which speaks not only of the foundational nature of the natural moral law but describes the commandments themselves as privileged expressions of the natural law.”
“As Catholics we also look to our Church for guidance that can only come from God. We believe that the teaching of the Church represents for us an opening on to the wisdom of God,” the Archbishop of Washington said.
He also recalled the decisive role Catholics played in the 1930’s in shaping the country’s system of social justice inspired in the Social Doctrine of the Church.
“Today,” Wuerl said, “our struggle is to achieve the same success using Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, and the Church’s teaching tradition on the dignity of life in the defense of unborn human life.”
The archbishop challenged today’s Catholic Americans to think of what the generations 100 years from now will say about “our success or failure in defending the dignity of the human person, from its conception to its natural end, according to the teachings of the Church.”
“Religious faith has played and continues to play a significant role in promoting social justice issues as it does in defending all innocent human life,” Wuerl said. “We simply cannot put aside all of this conviction of how we live and make important decisions and still be who we are as Catholics and as heirs to the American dream of personal freedom, faith and the common good.”
After referring to current issues of moral conflict between science and the dignity of human life and the separation of religious conviction from the public life, the archbishop concluded, “What marks the current moment is deepening awareness of both the importance of what we do as people of faith and the significance of what we bring to our nation.”
“Looking to the future of our great country, we should do so with hope, confidence and enthusiasm, knowing that we bring something to the effort to build a good and just society and that no one else can. We share the wisdom and love of God.”