Both Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori were attending the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Toronto. The Catholic fraternal order has more than 1.9 million members around the world, and Archbishop Lori serves as its Supreme Chaplain.
The 2016 election campaign comes after the unprecedented nomination of businessman and provocative media personality Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate and a combative Democratic primary between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Some think the next president’s choice to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy could set for decades the future of legal abortion and religious liberty in the country.
On top of these tensions are conflicts over immigration, excessive police force against African-Americans, anti-police violence, and several major terrorist attacks from Islamic State sympathizers.
Archbishop Lori spoke to the general sense of tension in American society.
“As a pastor of souls, I think that this is of great concern,” he said. “We have a situation where we are polarized. People aren’t any longer able to find those common truths and values that bind us together as a society.”
“This is a long-term preaching, teaching and pastoral project: to enable our Catholic people to be the ones who contribute to the rebuilding of this,” he added.
For Cardinal Dolan, the tensions and bad spirits in American society are perennial.
“We’re always going to have that,” he said. “We've had it, I'm afraid, since the Garden of Eden. There's always tension, there’s always misunderstanding.”
The cardinal had just met with the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan to discuss what Christians are facing there. In the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion, the withdrawal of American forces, and the rise of the Islamic State, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have suffered forced expulsions, atrocities, and intense pressures to leave their homeland.
“You talk about somebody that's got wheelbarrows of problems – good God in heaven, it makes ours look like a walk in the park,” the cardinal said.
(Story continues below)
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Using his own words, Cardinal Dolan recounted the bishop’s remarks:
“My people are so desperate that they're turning to Jesus Christ. They say politics isn’t working, weapons aren’t working, the nations have let us down. This tension, this retribution, this violence, it's destroying us.”
In this, the cardinal saw a lesson for Americans.
“Maybe we ought to take this as an invitation to return to Jesus in the gospel,” he said. “Boy, if they can do it, we can.”