WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A strong nation is one that prays, President George Bush said to nearly 1,600 people attending the 4th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
Addressing the event, held Friday in Washington, Bush said that the true strength of a nation “lies in the hearts” of its men and women.
The president also spoke of the continued effort for a culture of life: “Renewing the promise of America begins with upholding the dignity of human life.
“We must continue to work for a culture of life — where the strong protect the weak, and where we recognize in every human life the image of our Creator.”
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., gave the keynote address on “Christianity and Our National Identity.”
Tracing the political foundations of the United States from Mayflower Compact in 1620 to the Constitution in 1787, the archbishop said “this theme is repeated over and over again. We are a free people who recognize the sovereignty of God and God’s law in our personal and societal life.”
The prelate said that recent movements of public opinion lack appreciation for “the basic religious values that underpin our laws,” and call for “a so-called secular frame of reference within which public policy should be articulated.”
“Yet the opposite conviction has long been a cornerstone of the American experience,” said Archbishop Wuerl. “It finds expression in our deep-seated conviction that we have inalienable rights from ‘the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.'”
Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things, spoke at the event on “Why I Am Not an American Catholic.”
Father Neuhaus told ZENIT: “Since the Second Vatican Council, there has been a fevered concern about what it means to be an American Catholic.
“I suggest that is the wrong way of putting the question. Our commitment is to be not American Catholics but Catholic Americans. The adjective controls.
“Do we define being ‘Catholic’ to fit ‘American,’ or do we define ‘American’ by ‘Catholic’?”
“Put differently,” the priest explained, “are we Catholics in a peculiarly American way or Americans in a distinctively Catholic way? Of course both are true, but the accent is on the latter.”
“The future of Catholic witness in American life lies with those who are clearly and vibrantly Catholic Americans,” Father Neuhaus said.
The priest added: “The prayer breakfast is a most welcome development. At one level, it is a very public showing of the Catholic flag.
“More importantly, it is an occasion for encouragement and exchange among people who are excited about being Catholic Americans.”
Austin Ruse, a founder of the prayer breakfast and president of Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, told ZENIT that four years ago the even was launched because “it is always important to fly the flag of the Church in the public square, most especially in the nation’s capital.”
“The results have been astounding. In our first year, quite unexpectedly we got 900 people.”
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, also attended the event, as did Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court.