By Genevieve Pollock
DANA POINT, California, FEB. 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Catholic business executives of Legatus are gathering today to honor former President George W. Bush and Cardinal Francis George, hear Newt Gingrich’s conversion story and watch his new film.
These are just some of the highlights of the Legatus annual summit in Dana Point, the group’s executive director, John Hunt, explained to ZENIT.
Legatus announced last month that the former U.S. president is attending the summit, which began today and will end Saturday, to receive its prestigious Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award.
“You could argue that he was the most pro-life president in our lifetime,” Hunt affirmed.
An article in Legatus magazine cited Bush’s declaration of Jan. 18, 2009, as “National Sanctity of Human Life Day,” one of his last acts as president. At that time, the president affirmed that “the most basic duty of government is to protect the life of the innocent.”
Bush’s 2001-2009 presidency terms were marked by “pro-life policies that included opposition to embryonic stem-cell research, the appointment of two pro-life Supreme Court Justices, an executive order barring federal funds to be used for abortion-related projects abroad, and a rule protecting federally funded health employees from taking part in abortion or practices that conflict with their faith,” the magazine recalled.
Hunt added that the way Bush hosted Benedict XVI in Washington, D.C. in April 2008 “was something for all Catholics to be so proud of, proud of their country for having honored His Holiness in the way President Bush did.”
The executive director affirmed: “He is very deserving, and since he is coming to us, we wanted to use this as an opportunity to tell him in a very specific and tangible way how appreciative we are.”
Hunt stated that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, is also being honored by Legatus, in recognition of the fact that the conference has recently taken “stronger positions on the life issues,” especially regarding the health care debate.
Another political leader scheduled to address the expected 450 summit participants is Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house, who will speak about his conversion to Catholicism and will be accompanied by his wife, Callista.
Patrick Novecosky, publications director for Legatus, told ZENIT that this will be one of the largest Catholic gatherings Gingrich will be addressing since he entered the Church last March.
The couple will also be showing a new film that they produced through their company, Gingrich Productions, about Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Poland after becoming Pontiff.
The movie, “Nine Days that Changed the World,” tells the story of the Holy Father’s visit to his homeland, “viewed by many as the beginning of the fall of the Iron Curtain,” Hunt explained.
The summit, which is centered on the theme “Challenging the Culture,” will also feature New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan; Emmy-award winning actress Patricia Heaton (who stars in “Everybody Loves Raymond”); entrepreneur Frank Hanna III, author of “What Your Money Means;” Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, chairman of the Magis Institute and Spitzer Center.
“We’re so pleased and humbled by the attendance of so many prominent people,” said Hunt, who are coming to offer “real encouragement to our members as we seek to foster the faith in the culture.”
He explained that many of these speakers are attending because the Legatus members in some 75 chapters around the country have fostered friendships with them, and “have been of service in certain ways to their pastors and to their bishops.”
Novecosky told ZENIT that this event is going to be one of the largest summits ever, a testament to the quality of the featured speakers and clergy.
He added that this gathering of Legatus members is significant at this time because the corporate world has recently seen “a greater emphasis on business ethics.”
“Our members are faithful Catholics who pursue the highest standards in ethical business practices,” Novecosky said. “It is part of the Catholic business culture, part of the Legatus culture to emphasize ethics in business.”
Hunt added that the members are coming together because they find in the organization “something of a support group for Catholic executives to live their faith better, in fulfilling their responsibilities as executives, spouses, parents and grandparents, and members of the community.”
The summit chairperson, Kathleen Eaton, stated in the Legatus magazine that the organization members are “really excited” about this gathering.
She affirmed: “It’s been a rough year on a number of fronts, and they really need this shot in the arm.
“They want to come together to pray and learn more about what the Church is saying on different issues.”
In addition to the U.S. chapters, Legatus also has a presence in Toronto and Dublin, serving some 1,800 businesses.
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