People of faith must advocate for religious liberty, says House speaker

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WASHINGTON - People of faith have the responsibility to "advocate for their faith," not only through good works, but on spiritual realms - one being through prayer, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said May 17.

He made the comments at the 12th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which drew a record high of about 1,300 attendees to a downtown Washington hotel.

Ryan and Sister Constance Veit, communications director for her religious congregation, the Little Sisters of the Poor, were special guests at the breakfast.

The keynote speaker was Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, who addressed the topic of marriage in the church.

He said that it is the responsibility of the church to demonstrate to others how marriage should look within a Christian community.

In his address, in addition to highlighting the importance of prayer, Ryan also emphasized the need to advocate that government safeguard religious liberty.

"Religious liberty is going to make a comeback," said Ryan. "There is a growing need for faith in this nation."

Ryan also emphasized the importance of good works, referencing the ministry of Sister Constance and the Little Sisters of Poor.

In 2015, the religious congregation challenged the Affordable Care Act's mandate that most religious employers cover contraceptives for their employees even if the employer finds such coverage morally unacceptable. The Little Sisters' challenge and a number of other suits filed against the mandate by Catholic and other faith-based entities reached the Supreme Court. On May 16, the high court sent the cases - known collectively as Zubik v. Burwell - back down to the lower courts.

At the breakfast, Sister Constance underlined that people of faith should not only take care of the physical needs of those who are hurting, but should care for their spiritual needs and demonstrate to them their value.

"Look upon each person, friend or foe as Christ would," said Sister Constance. "Even our most cunning adversary is a person ultimately longing to love and to be loved."

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde gave the invocation and blessing at the start of the breakfast, and Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, gave the final blessing.

Father Paul D. Scalia, episcopal vicar for clergy and director of the diaconate formation program, led the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016