The Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware has issued a pastoral letter noting the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth, saying the president’s writings and speeches contain “some of the most profound thinking relating to religion” produced in American history.
A self-proclaimed “Lincoln Buff,” Bishop W. Francis Malooly also compared Lincoln to St. Thomas More in the pastoral letter, his first as Bishop of Wilmington.
The bishop titled his letter “Mystic Chords of Memory in the 21st Century: Remembering President Lincoln on the Bicentennial of His Birth.” The phrase ‘mystic chords of memory’ is taken from Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address.
The pastoral letter was published on the diocese’s website and in the diocesan newspaper The Dialog on Feb. 12, 2009 the 200th anniversary of President Lincoln’s birth, a press release from the diocese says.
In the letter Bishop Malooly wrote that though Lincoln was not a member of any organized Christian denomination, his speeches and writings “contain some of the most profound thinking relating to religion that have been produced in this nation. Moreover, in his life we can see many of the classic Christian virtues; virtues that are as relevant today as they ever were in the past; virtues that help explain why Lincoln’s legacy is so large.”
Describing Lincoln and St. Thomas More as “two very different men,” he said they nevertheless shared the view that public service required them “to pursue the public good rather than their own personal ends, even to the point that they put their lives at risk -- and ultimately died -- in that pursuit.”
The bishop said the two shared many virtues central to effective public service.
“In Lincoln’s life, Catholics and non-Catholics alike can see so many dimensions of the beatitudes, the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) and the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) lived vibrantly,” he claimed.
As an example of Lincoln’s mercifulness, Bishop Malooly cited the president’s instruction that the Union Band play “Dixie” when he learned of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.
“We, like Lincoln, are called to be instruments of the mercy of Christ’s heart and in moments of conflict in our lives to inspire people to follow paths of forgiveness and peace,” he said.
Bishop Malooly encouraged politicians to follow Lincoln’s example, saying “we too need statesmen who see widely and clearly.”
“Although the needs of our nation are many, more than anything else we need statesmen who recognize and respect all human beings without exception.”