ROME — A prominent Vatican Cardinal has called on U.S. Catholics to strive to overcome divisions and identity politics in order to reunite the nation.
Focusing on race, economic status, and political affiliation instead of our common humanity is contrary to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, said Cardinal Brian Farrell, head of the Vatican’s office for Laity, Family and Life during a June 5 evening prayer vigil in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
“Unfortunately, even among us Christians, a distorted way of thinking can infiltrate, which leads us to identify with only one side, distancing ourselves from those who belong to the other side: wealthy people against poor people, intellectuals against uncultured people, progressives against conservatives, whites against blacks and, in doing so, we completely lose sight of the universal dimension of Christ’s message or even end up identifying our Christian faith with the ideological vision of the side we have embraced,” said the Irish-born cardinal.
“Returning to this purity of the Gospel becomes the best way of promoting the social good, avoiding partial and ideological visions,” he said.
“I believe that it’s very important that we stop all this division, we stop the rhetoric of hatred that exists sometimes in our speech,” the cardinal told Catholic News Service (CNS).
By sharing Jesus’ teachings, Christians “are helping all our fellow citizens to return to the authentic ideals of our nation, its constitution and its laws,” he said.
The cardinal’s words stood in sharp contrast to recent declarations by the Catholic archbishop of Washington, DC, Wilton Gregory, who stirred up controversy by condemning a visit by President Donald Trump to the national shrine of Saint John Paul II before signing his executive order on international religious freedom.
“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles,” the archbishop said in his statement, without explaining how paying tribute to Pope John Paul violates Catholic principles.
Mr. Trump’s visit to the shrine had been planned for June 2, the date when John Paul arrived for the first time in Poland as pope in 1979, setting off a revolution that would spell the end of the Soviet Union. When Trump visited Poland in 2017, he spoke about St. John Paul II with great admiration as a hero of the nation and the world.
“And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down,” President Trump told the Polish people in Warsaw on July 6, 2017.
“They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer,” the president continued. “A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: ‘We Want God.’”
A number of leading Catholic and other Christian figures reacted swiftly to the archbishop’s words, denouncing them as “blatantly partisan” at a time when pastors should be encouraging unity.
One author pointed out to Archbishop Gregory that it seemed hypocritical to call out the president for visiting a Catholic shrine to pray when the archbishop himself had invited Nancy Pelosi last year to speak from the pulpit in his own cathedral during the funeral of Cokie Roberts, despite Ms. Pelosi’s well-known support for abortion on demand.