18 August 2020, The Tablet

Catholics to deliver prayers during closing night of Democratic convention

by Dennis Sadowski

Catholics to deliver prayers during closing night of Democratic convention

Jesuit Father James Martin, author and editor at large of America magazine, proclaims the Gospel at a Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City June 29, 2019.
CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

A Jesuit priest with a widespread presence in various media platforms and the executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying group, are to offer prayers during the Democratic National Convention on its final night.

Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, and Father James Martin said they were invited to address the convention in nonpolitical roles to deliver prayers on Aug 20.

Both pre-recorded each respective prayer with Sister Campbell offering an invocation and Father Martin delivering a benediction.

“I feel so honored,” Sister Campbell said. “I have to confess, tears sprung from my eyes (when I was asked).”

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, is scheduled to address the convention the same night.

“I have heard the vice president (Biden) say so often that nuns and Jesuits keep him in the church,” Sister Campbell added.

Father Martin, editor at large at America magazine, said he, too, was honoured to be invited to pray at the convention. He will offer one of three benedictions to close the quadrennial event.

“Generally speaking, I don't like to do too many overtly political things,” he told Catholic News Service, “but it's hard to turn down an invitation to pray. I figured if the Republicans asked me, I'd do the same thing.”

Father Martin said he prayed about accepting the invitation and then obtained permission from his Jesuit superiors to go forward.

He said he realised that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan prayed at both major political conventions in 2012 and deemed that it was acceptable that he offer prayers during the DNC this year.

Cardinal Dolan, then president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, prayed for the unborn in his closing benediction at the Democratic Convention, “that they may be welcomed and protected”. He uttered a similar phrase in his closing for Republican Convention. The GOP's platform on abortion is generally viewed as closer to the Catholic Church's teaching than the Democrats' platform, which supports legal abortion.

Also scheduled to address the convention is Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who will deliver the benediction Aug 18, the second night of the convention.

Bishop Budde offered strong criticism of President Donald Trump after he posed for photos while holding a Bible in front of historic St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House June 1. The church was boarded up after having been set on fire during a protest.

She is among a diverse group of faith leaders who will address the convention. Others on the schedule, according to The Associated Press, include Rabbi Lauren Berkun, vice president of the Shalom Hartman Institute or North America; Archbishop Elpidophoros, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, a Muslim social justice activist in New York; the Rev Gabriel Salguero, founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; and the Rev Jerry Young of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York confirmed he has accepted an invitation from the Republican National Committee to offer a prayer at the party's nominating convention.

The convention opens Aug 24 with limited attendance by delegates and party officials and runs to Aug 27. The proceedings will be livestreamed. Cardinal Dolan will offer the prayer as the convention opens, the same day President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will be nominated as the Republican Party's candidates for a second term.

“As a priest, one of my most sacred obligations is to try and respond positively whenever I am invited to pray,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Prayer is speaking to God, offering him praise, thanking him for his many blessings, and asking for his intercession; it is not political or partisan.

“That is why I have accepted an invitation to pray at the Republican National Convention. My agreeing to pray does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate, party, or platform. Had I been invited to offer a prayer for the Democratic National Convention, I would have happily accepted, just as I did in 2012.”


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