Archbishop of Baghdad to attend National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman
Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman

.- The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad Jean Benjamin Sleiman will attend the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Friday as part of his week-long visit to the United States. He will be joined by over 1,300 attendees including Catholic congressmen and other leaders.

On Sunday Archbishop Sleiman said Mass in an outdoor service for a group of 100 at the St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, the Nashua Telegraph reports. He spoke about the persecution of Christians in Iraq, including kidnappings, which he said are underreported and under-investigated.The archbishop asked for special prayers for him and other religious leaders of the Church in Iraq.

"Without shepherds, the sheep become scattered," he said. "We have to take care of our people. We are weak. We have fear in difficult situations. We have to be able to deliver our flock from fear."

Archbishop Sleiman plans to attend Friday’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington and meet with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, members of the State Department and congressional leaders, according to the Nashua Telegraph.

CNA contacted organizers of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and received confirmation the archbishop plans to attend.

Though Archbishop Sleiman was not scheduled to speak, Prayer Breakfast founder Joseph Cella told CNA that there are many “last-minute arrangements.”

“We’re still finalizing everything,” he said.

Asked whether he knew the topic of Archbishop Burke’s speech at the event, Cella said he did not. However, he explained the prelate’s comments would be consistent with the breakfast’s theme, “A Celebration of the Teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Cella reported that about 1,300 people will be in attendance.

The Prayer Breakfast invited all members of Congress who are Catholic and all Catholic members of the president’s Cabinet “as a courtesy.” Organizers also invited Vice-President Joseph Biden, who is Catholic.

However, organizers had not heard back from the vice-president or any Cabinet members. Cella said they would not be given a platform to speak if they do respond.

“President Bush really sought us out to attend in the past,” Cella told CNA. “We have not received such an outreach from President Obama. If he expresses interest in coming, he would be more than welcome to attend.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that President Obama had been invited to the prayer breakfast. CNA regrets the error.

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