RICHMOND — As the General Assembly starts the second half of its
2017 session, Virginia’s two Catholic bishops joined together Feb. 9 to offer
an evening prayer for the commonwealth, urging people to treat each other with
respect even when they disagree.
On a cold evening, people of all faiths gathered at the Cathedral
of the Sacred Heart in Richmond for the Virginia Vespers service, which was led
by Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Richmond Bishop Francis X.
DiLorenzo. The event is sponsored by the Virginia Catholic Conference, which is
directed by Jeff Caruso.
The evening’s message was unity. Bishop Burbidge discussed not
only loving thy neighbor but also respecting them.
“No matter how harsh the political climate can get, we are called
to recognize the dignity of each other,” Bishop Burbidge said.
The bishop said respect includes speaking to each other without
“name calling” or “generalizations.” He said one of the most important things
that Pope Francis is teaching the world is how to dialogue.
“He’s trying to remind us that it is OK within the church, within
politics, to have different opinions,” Bishop Burbidge said. “But are we
really listening to one another? Do we know how to listen to one another? Do we
know how to respect one another? Quite frankly, it’s what our political world
is in need of right now.”
That message struck a chord with the congregation, which included
several state lawmakers and other public officials. This is the second year
that the state’s two Catholic dioceses have held the Virginia Vespers, timed
with the midpoint of the legislative session.
Sen. Glen H. Sturtevant, R-Midlothian, was one of the legislators
“I think it’s doing things like this that help folks come
together,” Sturtevant said. “Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, my
experience is most people want to find ways where they can compromise. We can
always do better to be constructive when we disagree. You can disagree without
The evening wasn’t just about state politics. Bishop Burbidge
also made a reference to President Donald Trump’s temporary ban against admitting
refugees as well as visitors and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.
Trump has said that the ban is temporary and that it is a necessary step to
keep terrorists from entering the United States.
The Arlington bishop quoted Pope Francis as saying, “To change
the world, we must be good to those who cannot repay us.”
“The Lord teaches us every man and woman and child, whether they
be refugees or immigrants — they all merit our respect,” Bishop Burbidge said.
“Virginia Vespers was a great opportunity to come together and
pray for civility and wisdom as important issues are advanced and resolved over
the last couple weeks of the General Assembly session,” said Caruso.
“We prayed for the unborn, immigrants, refugees, those living in
poverty, and respect for religious freedom, and we hope that each of these
prayer intentions will lead to just decisions as our elected officials consider
legislation and the budget in these final weeks of session,” he said.