.- United States’ President George W. Bush spoke this morning at the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, at Washington’s Hilton Hotel, telling the crowd of Catholic faithful that the “promise of America” is in need of renewal and that such a renewal will come through a greater respect for human life and an active hand from religious groups.
“Our Declaration of Independence states that our freedom rests on self-evident truths about the dignity of the human person,” the president said. “Throughout our nation's history, Catholic Americans have embraced, sustained, and given their lives to defend these truths.”
“This morning, we give thanks for the blessings of freedom, and we ask Almighty God to guide us as we renew our founding promise of liberty and justice for all.”
“Renewing the promise of America,” Bush said, “begins with upholding the dignity of human life.”
Referring perhaps to this weeks Senate vote in favor of funding the creation and destruction of human embryos for stem cell research, the president noted the “temptation to manipulate human life in ways that do not respect the humanity of the person.”
“When that happens,” the president added, “the most vulnerable among us can be valued for their utility to others -- instead of their own inherent worth.”
“We must continue to work for a culture of life -- where the strong protect the weak, and where we recognize in every human life the image of our Creator.”
The president also noted the need for more American citizens to look out for their neighbors. In this effort, Bush said, faith-based institutions can “add something the government never can, and that is love.”
Catholic parishes and neighborhoods across the country take the call to love on their own shoulders, the president added, “and that is why we find so many of you leading America's armies of compassion. You are changing America one heart, one soul at a time, and I thank you.”
“Renewing the promise of America also includes ensuring a sound education for every single child,” President Bush continued. Catholic schools, Bush noted, “were built by poor immigrants, they were staffed by legions of dedicated nuns, brothers, and priests -- and they have given millions of Americans the knowledge and character they need to succeed in life.”
Bush noted the work that Catholic Schools do to educate Catholics and non-Catholic’s alike – especially in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods. “I appreciate the tremendous sacrifices that many dioceses are making to keep their inner-city schools going,” Bush said. “I am worried that too many of these schools are closing -- and our nation needs to do something about it.”
“I applaud our nation's Catholic schools. I will continue to work to help these schools reach more children in need, so that our children have the skills they need to realize the full promise of the United States of America.”
Finally, the President concluded, “to realize the promise of America, we must have comprehensive immigration reform that enforces our laws and upholds the dignity of every single person in the United States. And now is the time for the United States Congress to get a bill to my desk that I can sign.”
In addition to several members of congress, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito were also present at the event; as was current Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Jim Nicholson.