He commended Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper for his decision to maintain the “Merry Christmas” lights on City Hall, after citizens protested a former decision to remove them. He said such an incident would have baffled American Catholics only one generation earlier.
“Public institutions and leaders have the obligation to respect the beliefs of the people they serve. Publicly acknowledging and revering Christmas for what it really is — a time of both secular and religious celebration penetrated by Christian meaning — in no way imposes anyone’s church on anybody,” he said. “Rather, to not show public respect for the religious identity of Christmas is a form of bigotry against most American voters.”
The archbishop reflected on 2004 as a “year of surprises for American Catholics and other Christians,” referring to the “hostile public debate” over “The Passion of the Christ,” the divisive political campaign, and “Scrooge-like attempts” to cut the word “Christmas” from public discourse.
“No other religious community would be subjected to this kind of treatment — and remember, American Christians are in the majority,” he said.
The archbishop said there is a simple lesson in all of this for Catholics: “Separating our personal religious faith from our public life andactions doesn’t work. All that results is a smaller and smaller space where our religious beliefs are safe from criticism.
“Living that way is not discipleship,” he concluded, calling on his faithful to stand up and be counted. “That’s not the courage and confidence Jesus called us to when He told us to be ‘leaven in the world’ and to ‘make disciples of all nations.’”