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Pope

Cross-section of US religious life to welcome pope, including evangelicals, gay Catholics

By ALANNA DURKIN, Associated Press

When Pope Francis arrives at the White House at the start his U.S. visit, he will be greeted by a cross-section of American religious life — from leaders of major evangelical groups to liberal Protestants and a Roman Catholic nun who leads bus tours advocating for social justice.

Also present will be a gay Catholic blogger who credits compassionate statements by the pontiff for bringing him back to the church.

Thousands are expected on the South Lawn on Sept. 23 to help President Barack Obama greet Francis as he embarks on a tour through Washington, New York and Philadelphia that will include Masses, meetings with immigrants and speeches to Congress and the United Nations.

Among those who confirmed their attendance at the White House reception are the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Florida who is a confidant of Obama on spiritual matters; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 40 conservative Christian denominations; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a major U.S. Latino evangelical group that, along with the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, has pressed lawmakers for immigration reform.

Also in the audience will be Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop who’s now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think-tank with ties to the Democratic Party, and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, and a leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” advocacy tours.

Campbell’s group had been singled out in the Vatican investigation of the main umbrella group of U.S. nuns, an inquiry that began under Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The investigation ended this year with no major changes for the nuns’ leadership group, and with a thank you from Francis for the work of religious sisters.

On this visit, the pope is expected to highlight the need for a generous welcome to immigrants and protection of the environment — two priorities of his pontificate.

“I think it’s so important that the pope is visiting because his global message is especially important for the United States,” said Campbell, who will also attend the pope’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress. “His message of changing our throwaway culture and to address the crisis of exploitation is really the key to changing our world to be more inclusive in the economy and more caretaking about the earth — and a lot of this policy starts in the U.S.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for details of the reception. But more than 13,000 people filled the South Lawn when Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008.

The ceremony for Francis falls on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and one of the most important days of the year for Jews, which means American Jewish leaders aren’t expected to attend. Still, the reception will showcase the theological breadth of the country’s religious groups. Imam Mohamed Magid, who leads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, a mosque with thousands of members in the Washington area, will also attend the event.

“I hope he’ll see there’s tremendous good in this country,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, in recent remarks about the pope’s five-day visit. Chaput will host Francis at the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27.

Francis and Obama will talk privately after the South Lawn reception. The president hopes to discuss the environment, immigrants and refugees, and “protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world,” the White House said.

Aaron Ledesma was invited last month to attend the ceremony after sharing his story with the White House. For years, Ledesma struggled with his faith as an openly gay Catholic, and he recently started a blog about the subject. Francis’ message inspired him to return to Mass last month.

“When you have someone in that kind of position saying compassionate, loving statements like that, that’s what’s going to draw the Catholic community together. That’s what’s going to draw the estranged Catholics back in,” said Ledesma, a Houston, Texas, native who now lives in Richmond, Virginia.

When asked in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, Francis famously responded, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” However, Francis has also affirmed that same-sex relationships and marriages are contrary to church teaching.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics plan to attend the World Meeting of Families and also hold separate events tied to the conference as they advocate for broader acceptance in the church.

With so many attendees at the reception, Ledesma isn’t expecting to meet Francis face-to-face. But he says that just being able to witness “progress and witness hope and compassion and love” will be the ultimate experience. He says he hopes his story will help other gay Catholics to find peace with their faith.

“You don’t have to abandon who you are for your faith and you don’t have to abandon your faith to be who you are,” he said.

Associated Press reporter Rachel Zoll contributed to this report from New York City.

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White House invites religious allies to attend reception for Pope Francis

Catholic World News – September 11, 2015

President Barack Obama will invite prominent American religious figures, including many of his political allies, to attend the White House reception at which he greets Pope Francis on September 23.

Among the religious leaders invited for the event are Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual bishop in the Anglican communion; Sister Simone Campbell of “Nuns on the Bus;” Rev. Joel Hunter, the Florida megachurch leader; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and a Catholic blogger, Aaaron Ledesma, who drew the attention of the White House by writing on his experience as a gay Catholic. The invited guests are unlikely to have a chance for a personal meeting with the Pontiff. They will be observers at a ceremony on the South Lawn.

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The US will show the pope its panoply of religious life

When Pope Francis arrives at the White House at the start his US visit, he will be greeted by a cross-section of American religious life — from leaders of major evangelical groups to liberal Protestants and a Roman Catholic nun who leads bus tours advocating for social justice.

Also present will be a gay Catholic blogger who credits compassionate statements by the pontiff for bringing him back to the Church.

Thousands are expected on the South Lawn on Sept. 23 to help President Barack Obama greet Francis as he embarks on a tour through Washington, New York, and Philadelphia that will include Masses, meetings with immigrants, and speeches to Congress and the United Nations.

Among those who confirmed their attendance at the White House reception are the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Florida who is a confidant of Obama on spiritual matters; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 40 conservative Christian denominations; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a major US Latino evangelical group that, along with the US Roman Catholic bishops, has pressed lawmakers for immigration reform.

Also in the audience will be Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop who’s now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think-tank with ties to the Democratic Party, and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, and a leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” advocacy tours.

Campbell’s group had been singled out in the Vatican investigation of the main umbrella group of US nuns, an inquiry that began under Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The investigation ended this year with no major changes for the nuns’ leadership group, and with a thank you from Francis for the work of religious sisters.

On this visit, the pope is expected to highlight the need for a generous welcome to immigrants and protection of the environment — two priorities of his pontificate.

“I think it’s so important that the pope is visiting because his global message is especially important for the United States,” said Campbell, who will also attend the pope’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress. “His message of changing our throwaway culture and to address the crisis of exploitation is really the key to changing our world to be more inclusive in the economy and more caretaking about the earth — and a lot of this policy starts in the US.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for details of the reception. But more than 13,000 people filled the South Lawn when Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008.

The ceremony for Francis falls on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and one of the most important days of the year for Jews, which means American Jewish leaders aren’t expected to attend. Still, the reception will showcase the theological breadth of the country’s religious groups. Imam Mohamed Magid, who leads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, a mosque with thousands of members in the Washington area, will also attend the event.

“I hope he’ll see there’s tremendous good in this country,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, in recent remarks about the pope’s five-day visit. Chaput will host Francis at the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27.

Francis and Obama will talk privately after the South Lawn reception. The president hopes to discuss the environment, immigrants, and refugees, and “protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world,” the White House said.

More from Crux

 

Aaron Ledesma was invited last month to attend the ceremony after sharing his story with the White House. For years, Ledesma struggled with his faith as an openly gay Catholic, and he recently started a blog about the subject. Francis’ message inspired him to return to Mass last month.

“When you have someone in that kind of position saying compassionate, loving statements like that, that’s what’s going to draw the Catholic community together. That’s what’s going to draw the estranged Catholics back in,” said Ledesma, a Houston, Texas, native who now lives in Richmond, Virginia.

When asked in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, Francis famously responded, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” However, Francis has also affirmed that same-sex relationships and marriages are contrary to Church teaching.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics plan to attend the World Meeting of Families and also hold separate events tied to the conference as they advocate for broader acceptance in the Church.

With so many attendees at the reception, Ledesma isn’t expecting to meet Francis face-to-face. But he says that just being able to witness “progress and witness hope and compassion and love” will be the ultimate experience. He says he hopes his story will help other gay Catholics to find peace with their faith.

“You don’t have to abandon who you are for your faith and you don’t have to abandon your faith to be who you are,” he said.

Associated Press reporter Rachel Zoll contributed to this report from New York City.

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Obama out to shame and humiliate Christians, the Pope, and the Church

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
www.virtueonline.org
Sept. 17, 2015

President Barrack Obama will soon be feting Pope Francis. He has gone out of his way to invite a cast of characters guaranteed to make the Pope blush.

Francis is not only the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, but he is also a head of state in his own right as the Bishop of Rome for the Vatican City-State.

Diplomatic protocol is described as following well-established and time-honored rules of courtesy based on principles of civility, making it easier for nations and people to live and work together.

Obama’s form of in-your-face diplomatic protocol includes trotting out every form of sexual deviant and parading them before Pope Francis. It’s enough to embarrass the gentle humble Pontiff.

The Pope was being compassionate with his comment concerning his priests, who are struggling with a homosexual orientation, when he commented, “Who am I to judge?” However, he stands pat on the Catholic Church’s firm doctrine and teaching on homosexual practice, pro-life, and traditional marriage issues, as well as an all-male priesthood.

CNS News describes some of the known invitees on the guest list as “several gay and transgender persons, a controversial nun, a radical preacher, and a gay Episcopal bishop.”

The gay Episcopal bishop is none other than Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson (IX New Hampshire-retired). As the first openly gay and partnered man to be consecrated a bishop in Christendom, he has almost single-handedly brought the Anglican Communion down to its knees as it teeters on the edge of implosion.

The referenced “several gay and transgender persons” include: Vivian Taylor, a transgendered “woman” who was executive director of Integrity-USA and involved with TransEpiscopal. Obama her/him to Pope Francis’ formal Sept. 23 televised White House Arrival Ceremony. S/he was told to bring five friends.

“I was told I could bring several friends with me,” Taylor said, noting that s/he was “glad we can bring some LGBT representation to the event.”

Taylor is looking forward to meeting the Pope, “I’m very happy to meet my brother in Christ, Pope Francis.”

The five representative LGBT friends Taylor invited are Nicole Santamaria, the Secretary of Asociacion Colectivo Alejandria an Hispanic LGBT advocacy group; Marcia Garber a member of Dignity-USA and the mother of a transgendered child; Mateo Williamson, a cross-dressing transgender Catholic and the former co-chairman of Transgender Caucus for Dignity-USA; the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, an LGBT advocate, liberal Episcopal theologian, the director of Mission & Reconciliation at General Theological Seminary and chaplain to the Episcopal House of Bishops (reports are that Canon Spellers will be unable to attend the Pope’s soiree because she didn’t RSVP in time); and the Rev. Cameron Partridge, a transgendered Episcopal priest who preached at the Washington National Cathedral.

Dignity-USA is the Catholic version of Integrity-USA. Both LGBT organizations are intent on forcing gay rights upon their respective denominations, regardless of doctrinal beliefs and practices. Integrity’s motto is “All the Sacraments for All the Baptized” and Dignity’s maxim is “Celebrating the Wholeness & Holiness of LGBTQ Catholics.”

Earlier this month, the Catholic Church put the skids on the transgendered becoming Godparents at baptism. The Vatican Doctrinal Congregation said “transsexual behavior publicly reveals an attitude contrary to the moral imperative of resolving the problem of one’s sexual identity according to the truth of one’s sexuality.”

Other radicals invited to Obama’s religious hit parade include: Sr. Simone Campbell. The outspoken Roman Catholic religious sister is the executive director of NETWORK, a social justice lobby in Washington. As a strong advocate of ObamaCare, she was present when Obama signed the legislation into law. The Catholic Social Service Sister is also the leader behind Nuns on a Bus, a radical Catholic pressure group of nuns who travel on a touring bus to promote social justice.

Also invited to the White House welcoming ceremony is 23-year-old Aaron Ledesma, a gay Catholic who pens the blog called — appropriately enough — The Gay Catholic.

Gay, transgendered, and radical Episcopalians and Catholics are not the only Christians or other religious leaders invited to briefly hobnob with the Pope. The White House reached out to a wide variety of clergy and religious leaders including Obama’s spiritual confidant the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Florida; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, founder of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the largest US Latino Evangelical organization; and Imam Mohamed Magid, who leads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society and is past president of Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim organization in America.

Although Jewish leaders have been invited to the papal event, it is expected that none will take the White House up on the invitation since the Pope will be in town during Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holy Day of Atonement.

Obama frequently turns to radical liberal clergy for public prayer, with a strong showing from Episcopalians. In 2009 he tapped Bishop Robinson to kick off the weekend of inaugural festivities with an invocation at the Lincoln Memorial.

The pre-inaugural prayer service was held at the National Cathedral with Dean Samuel Lloyd, Bishop John Chane (VIII Washington), Canon Carol Wade, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori participating.

Four years later when the 2013 National Cathedral interfaith prayer service was held, Bishop Marianne Budde (IX Washington), Dean Gary Hall, and the Presiding Bishop participated. Then the rector of historic St. John Episcopal on Lafayette Square, Luis León gave the inaugural benediction. He was the inaugural committee’s alternative choice because the first choice, Pastor Louie Giglio from Atlanta, was deemed too anti-gay. St. John’s-Lafayette Square is traditionally the location for an early inaugural morning private service.

Other inaugural participants who are scheduled to attend the Pope’s reception include Imam Magid and Pastor Anderson. The White House has not released a complete guest list.

Most recently, Obama spontaneously again tapped Bishop Robinson to give the closing prayer at the 2014 Easter Prayer Breakfast.

The bishop tweeted: “POTUS ‘preaches’ at the Easter prayer breakfast. Then, out of the blue, asks ME to close with prayer. OMG! #privilege.”

Last month Bishop Robinson tweeted his thanks to President Obama for another LGBT milestone. “In first, White House hires openly transgender staffer. Thank you POTUS…”

Obama is very gay-friendly and a champion of gay rights. There is also much speculation as to whether Obama is actually a Bible-believing Evangelical, a progressive Christian, or a closet Muslim. When the recent Supreme Court marriage equality ruling came down, making same-sex marriage the law of the land, he bathed the White House in Gay Pride rainbow colors in celebration of the earth-shattering event. Many God-fearing Christians were horrified at the spectacle. Chances are the President will not light up the White House in papal yellow and white to honor his diplomatic guest from the Vatican City-State.

Latest research shows that fewer than four percent of Americans identify themselves as being LGBT, while more than 70 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians. Of that number, more than 25 percent are Roman Catholics with Episcopalians and Anglicans making up about 1.5 percent of American Christians. The remaining almost 75 percent of the American Christian population is spread between the Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Pentecostals, and other Christian believers — Amish … Quakers … Holiness … Reformed…

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a former Anglican priest who swam the Tiber and is now a Pastoral Provision Roman Catholic priest in South Carolina, pinioned on his blog Standing on my Head: “There will be thousands at this ‘audience’ with Pope Francis and it’s doubtful that Gene Robinson will be in the line up to meet Pope Francis personally, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him maneuvered into place for a photo with the Pope which will the mainstream media will then publish with the caption, ‘Pope Francis and Gay Bishop: Who Am I to Judge?'”

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to Virtue Online

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Dr Samuel Rodriguez will join President Barack Obama in welcoming Pope Francis to the White House

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 18, 2015

CONTACTS

Sarah Doolin, Partnership for a New American Economy, Sarah@renewoureconomy.org

Julie Shutley, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, JShutley@alarryross.com

***MEDIA EVENT ADVISORY***

FAITH VOICES FOR IMMIGRANTS SUMMIT

Building a Better Future through Faith, Community, Family Values, and Compassion

America’s Largest Hispanic Evangelical Organization Brings Faith Leaders to Capitol Hill to

Call for Immigration Reform

In concert with the Papal visit to the United States — which will highlight the critical roles that

immigrants play in communities nationwide, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership

Conference, America’s largest Hispanic Christian Evangelical organization, is bringing faith

leaders from across the country to Capitol Hill to urge political leaders to take action on

immigration reform. Dr Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, will join President Barack

Obama in welcoming Pope Francis to the White House.

Please join the Faith Voices For Immigrants Summit for a conversation on faith and the need for

immigration reform.

SPEAKERS:

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Ed Stetzer, Executive Director, LifeWay Research; Pastor and Author

Kelly Rosati, Vice President of Community Outreach, Focus on the Family

John Hewitt, CEO, Liberty Tax Service

Hyepin Im, Founder and President, Korean Churches for Community Development

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum

Bishop Harry Jackson, Founder, Higher Impact Leadership Coalition and The

Reconciled Church

MODERATOR:

Rev. Tony Suarez, Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership

Conference

DATE: September 23, 2015

PRESS REGISTRATION: 2:00 pm to 2:30 pm

EVENT TIME: 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm

LOCATION: National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20045

RSVP: Sarah Doolin, Partnership for a New American Economy, Sarah@renewoureconomy.org

The Faith Voices for Immigrants Summit is the launch of a greater effort to advance the national

debate on immigration reform in churches across the country via coordinated sermons, Bible

study curricula, prayer breakfasts, and more. It is supported by the Partnership for a New

American Economy.

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

NHCLC/CONEL is the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization. It serves as a representative voice

for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and another

500,000 congregations spread throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. The organization seeks to

reconcile Evangelist Billy Graham’s message of salvation through Christ with Dr. Martin Luther King,

Jr.’s march of prophetic activism. A bipartisan organization, NHCLC/CONEL follows the agenda of the

Lamb, not the donkey or the elephant, and emphasizes “7 Directives” of Life, Family, Compassionate

Evangelism, Stewardship, Justice, Education and Youth.

Partnership for a New American Economy

The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic,

and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs

for Americans today. The Partnership’s members include mayors of more than 35 million people

nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than

4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High

Tech, and Media to Manufacturing. Partnership members understand that immigration is essential to

maintaining the productive, diverse, and flexible workforce that America needs to ensure prosperity over

the coming generations. Learn more at www.RenewOurEconomy.org.

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President Obama: Insulting Friends, Placating Adversaries

Today’s Washington Post carries one of the most remarkable and surprising op-eds that paper has published in a long time. Note: This op-ed is the paper’s own “voice,” not a piece by a columnist.

Commenting on the Obama administration’s inclusion of “transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and a nun who criticizes church policies on abortion and euthanasia” in the welcoming ceremony planned for the Pope’s upcoming visit, the Post comments:

What struck us as we read about this small controversy is the contrast between the administration’s apparent decision to risk a bit of rudeness in the case of the pope and its overwhelming deference to foreign dictators when similar issues arise. When Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Havana to reopen the U.S. Embassy recently, he painstakingly excluded from the guest list any democrat, dissident or member of civil society who might offend the Castro brothers.

And when Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to the White House next week, shortly after the pope leaves town, it’s a safe bet that he won’t have to risk being photographed with anyone of whom he disapproves. Chen Guangcheng, the courageous blind lawyer, for example, lives nearby in exile, but he probably won’t be at the state dinner. Neither will Falun Gong activists, democracy advocates or anyone else who might, well, give offense.

The Obama administration argues that it will include many people of every background. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, “The presence of these (controversial) figures is especially irritating, (a) Vatican official said, because it isn’t yet clear if the White House has invited any representatives of the U.S. anti-abortion movement, traditionally a high-priority cause for the U.S. bishops.”

Read that, no one active in the pro-life movement is welcome to greet the head of the world’s largest pro-life organization.

There will be some Evangelical leaders present at the event. U.S. News reports that they include “the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Florida who is a confidant of Obama on spiritual matters; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 40 conservative Christian denominations; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.”

While it’s nice of the White House to include some Evangelicals, the inclusion of persons at overt and public odds with the teachings the Pope represents and the omission of others whose political activities — standing for the unborn and their mothers — are essential to Catholic teaching are startling.

Remarkable: A stinging and blunt calling-on-the-carpet of an Administration far more concerned with advancing an aggressive “gay rights” agenda than defending religious liberty here at home or standing with those being horribly persecuted for their faith in repressive nations around the world. As I have written elsewhere, President Obama “cannot defend abroad what (he and his) administration … are working to erode here at home.”

The willingness of this Administration to affront the leader of the world’s largest Christian tradition is an embarrassment to our country. It demonstrates a moral arrogance so profound as to be one of the few things that still surprises after nearly seven years of the President’s diligent efforts to, in his words, “transform the United States of America.”

Insulting foreign friends while placating foreign adversaries strikes one as an unusual approach to advancing America’s national security and vital interests. Sadly, this Administration seems eager to do just that.

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Pope brings hope for Latinos

The arrival of Pope Francis in Washington this week marks a momentous — and deeply personal — occasion for Latino Catholics, who have seen the influence of the first Latino pope extend far beyond members of the church.

“In general, he’s moving the public in such a way that he’ll get his way on a number of issues,” said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), who is Catholic.
For Latino lawmakers, however, Francis’ words resonate the most on the issue of immigration. And after losing their best shot at immigration reform in a generation, advocates are latching onto Francis’s historic visit to jolt the rhetoric and debate over immigrants that has swerved sharply to the right.

 

“This is the quintessential heavenly pushback to Donald Trump’s foolish statements,” said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “This is God’s response to nativism and xenophobia: A Latino pope at the White House. Praise the Lord.”

 

Though Francis could certainly make Democrats uncomfortable by reiterating the views of the Catholic Church on abortion and contraception, he could just as easily push Republicans with progressive stances on not just immigration, but climate change and economic inequality.

Francis has also backed the nuclear accord with Iran that GOP lawmakers have uniformly opposed, and helped broker a landmark deal last December that began relaxing relations between the United States and Cuba after nearly five decades.

“He is an important spiritual leader in the world, calling for greater compassion for those who are suffering,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, said Tuesday. “That is a message that everyone should heed.”

When asked about the pope’s stances on climate change and immigration, Cruz declined to comment and ducked into an elevator.

 

But the pope’s presence and his speech will also strike a personal note for many lawmakers, particularly the Latino Catholics such as Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.). The freshman lawmaker said she hadn’t attended mass in years, repelled by the sexual-abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. But since the pontiff assumed his position as the head of the church, his message of redemption and forgiveness – as well as provocative positions on progressive issues – had drawn Torres back to the church pews.

 

“I had my own crisis with the Catholic Church. It wasn’t until I began to hear Pope Francis address the humanitarian issues around the world that I began to pay back attention,” Torres said in an interview Tuesday. “The fact that Pope Francis has been more moderate and accepting from all walks of life makes me feel that as a woman, I have a place there in church.”

 

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus began making preparations for the pope’s visit as early as last August, when it wrote to the Vatican praising Francis for his message urging compassion for immigrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from Central America who were arriving in record numbers last year.

 

The Aug. 21, 2014 letter from the caucus also urged Francis to continue drawing attention to poverty and requested a meeting with the pope during his U.S. visit, “wherever your journey may take you.”

 

“With such a broad worldwide congregation, and a clear and deeply felt interest in the affairs of all humankind, we would encourage as you plan your trip to the United States, that you continue your leadership and visit some of our communities most in need,” the Latino lawmakers wrote.

 

“He is the most modern day pope I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said current Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), who is Catholic. “It’s exciting and that’s why there has been a real upsurge in Catholicism and attendance.”

In high anticipation for his visit, immigration advocates have been making their own preparations.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/pope-latinos-immigration-213942#ixzz3mWvDmlJD

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Obama’s inclusion of transgender activist, gay bishop, and abortion-supporting nun on Pope Francis ‘guest list’ raises questions

Some voices in the United States have repeatedly questioned whether President Barack Obama is really a Christian or not, with the debate often fuelled by the stance taken by the president on various hot button topics that go against deep-rooted Christian values and beliefs.

With Pope Francis currently in the midst of his first visit to the United States, President Obama’s faith has once again been called into question by some, who have been surprised at the president’s guest list to hear Pope Francis speak this week.

The Washington Post has questioned the president’s actions in an editorial that appeared this week, which questioned Obama’s inclusion of “transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, and a nun who criticises church policies on abortion and euthanasia” in the White House guest list for Pope Francis.

The Washington Post was referring to the inclusion in the White House guest list of Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK, who led the liberal “nuns on the bus” tour and dissented from Catholic doctrine by supporting abortion; Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal Church bishop of New Hampshire, who married, then later divorced, the man he left his wife to be with; Mateo Williamson, the former co-chair of the Transgender Caucus; and blogger Aaron Ledesma, of the website The Gay Catholic.

“What struck us as we read about this small controversy is the contrast between the administration’s apparent decision to risk a bit of rudeness in the case of the pope and its overwhelming deference to foreign dictators when similar issues arise,” the Washington Post wrote. “When Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Havana to reopen the US Embassy recently, he painstakingly excluded from the guest list any democrat, dissident or member of civil society who might offend the Castro brothers.”

“And when Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to the White House next week, shortly after the pope leaves town, it’s a safe bet that he won’t have to risk being photographed with anyone of whom he disapproves,” the paper’s editorial said. “Chen Guangcheng, the courageous blind lawyer, for example, lives nearby in exile, but he probably won’t be at the state dinner. Neither will Falun Gong activists, democracy advocates or anyone else who might, well, give offense.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Vatican official noted that “the presence of these [controversial] figures [in the White House guest list for the pope] is especially irritating.”

Some have defended the president, highlighting the fact that the White House has also included a number of conservative evangelicals to meet the Pope, such as the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Florida who is a confidant of Obama on spiritual matters; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which represents about 40 conservative Christian denominations; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

However, observers noted that the White House did not invite any person representing the pro-life movement to greet the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the world’s largest pro-life organisation, according to Rob Schwarzwalder of Charisma News.

In its defence, the Obama administration merely said it tried to include people of every background in the list of people to welcome the pope.

Schwarzwalder said Obama’s “willingness to affront the leader of the world’s largest Christian tradition is an embarrassment to our country.”

He said this demonstrates “profound moral arrogance.”

“Insulting foreign friends while placating foreign adversaries strikes one as an unusual approach to advancing America’s national security and vital interests. Sadly, this Administration seems eager to do just that,” Schwarzwalder added.

Original post can be read here.

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An opportunity for courage on immigration

On Thursday, Pope Francis humbly exhorted a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress to view immigrants “as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond … in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.” He challenged the Congress to apply Christ’s Golden Rule, to address the situation of refugees and other immigrants “with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”

Sitting behind him, visibly moved at various points, was Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), a man shaped by his own Catholic faith, who has spoken repeatedly of his own convictions that a dysfunctional immigration system needed to be reformed, but who has not been able to achieve significant changes. As Boehner met with the pontiff just before his address, I wonder if Pope Francis pastorally but specifically challenged the Speaker to demonstrate courageous leadership in addressing immigration policy. I wonder if the Speaker confessed to the global leader of his Church what the rest of the nation learned this morning: that he will resign as Speaker of the House in just over a month.

As an evangelical Christian, I both share many essential biblical beliefs with Pope Francis and have some important theological differences. As a conservative, my views often align with those of Speaker Boehner, but I’ve also occasionally been frustrated by his leadership.
One significant frustration with Boehner’s tenure has been the failure to move forward on immigration reform. In 2013, the Senate came together on a bipartisan basis to pass a broad immigration reform. The bill combined dramatic improvements to border security and interior enforcement with adjustments to a business-stifling visa system and an earned legalization process for those undocumented immigrants willing to come forward, pay a fine, and fully comply with a stringent set of requirements over a decade-long probationary period. Both sides made compromises, and no one was completely happy with the legislation, but it would have been an enormous improvement to the status quo.

Both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a politically diverse coalition of evangelical leaders praised the effort, which we affirmed aligned with biblical values of respect for the rule of law, family unity, and compassion. Leaders from various other faith traditions voiced support as well, as did both the largest labor unions in the country and the business interests represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A Quinnipiac University poll at the time showed that, by a two-to-one margin, Americans supported the bipartisan Senate bill, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, Catholics and evangelicals, and all ethnic groups surveyed.

After the Senate bill passed, the nation waited. At various points over the next year, we heard that the House would act—maybe on the Senate bill, maybe on their own version of reform, with the various elements broken into separate bills. We prayed and pleaded for something, especially those of us who know personally the harm done by a long-neglected immigration system that is dividing families, stifling our economy, and eroding the rule of law.

Behind the scenes, I and others who met with legislators found that a bill or bills similar to the Senate’s proposal had the support of almost all Democrats and of a larger than publicly reported minority of Republicans in the House. If legislators were telling us the truth behind the scenes—not necessarily a great presumption from politicians—there were almost certainly enough votes to pass legislation along the lines of the bipartisan Senate proposal in the House, had Boehner called a vote. He did not—likely, I presume, because he lacked the support of a majority of House Republicans, and if they were sufficiently upset by such a move, they could have threatened his speakership.

Having announced his resignation, I now wonder: what does the Speaker have to lose? Before you resign, Mr. Speaker, I hope and pray that you’ll call a vote on a bill (or, if you prefer, bills) that would address each of the major elements needed to reform our immigration system, consistent with the Senate’s approach. In a nod to Pope Francis and in light of the greatest refugee crisis our world has witnessed since World War II, I might add in some additional support to increase resettlement of refugees to our great nation, which still represents a beacon of hope for these divine-image-bearers yearning for freedom and safety.

Even if broad immigration reform is, at this moment, a bridge too far, Republicans have an incredible opportunity to choose a conservative leader who understands that a better immigration process carries great potential for our nation and leads on immigration reform.

In a time when the rhetoric around immigration has become mean-spirited and vitriolic under the influence of the GOP’s current presidential frontrunner, we need a new conversation on immigrants and immigration in Washington: one that changes the tone and unites us, no matter where you were born.

Pope Francis’ visit has startled the status quo in Washington. Speaker Boehner’s announced resignation has upset the normal political currents. Now is a time for political courage for just and moral ends. May it be so.

Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/CONEL.

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