The Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has hit back at criticism of his decision to invite US President Barack Obama to a Catholic fundraising dinner.
Cardinal Dolan has invited both Mr Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, which is an annual fundraising event for Catholic charities. It will be held in October at The Waldorf Astoria in New York.
Critics said that the Cardinal should not have invited Mr Obama while Catholic groups, including the Archdiocese of New York, continue to campaign against the contraceptive mandate included in new health care legislation.
In his online blog Cardinal Dolan said that the dinner was non-partisan and "an occasion of conversation" that he hoped would encourage dialogue with the Obama administration.
He said: "I'm encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I'd be taking all my meals alone."
Above: Cardinal Timothy Dolan Photo: CY White