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National Catholic Prayer Breakfast speakers emphasize evangelism, unity

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WASHINGTON — Evangelism and Christian unity were the main topics at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast Sept. 14, an event which often puts more emphasis on politics and pro-life advocacy.

"The commitment to the truth will always transcend the knee-jerk categories and characterizations that are the media's daily bread, let's face it," said Bishop Steven J. Lopes, who heads the Houston-based Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

The ordinariate was established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and designed to reach out to those raised in the Anglican tradition.

"Our fundamental reverence for the sanctity of human life does not begin at birth. Nor does it end at the border. That's what it means to be Catholic," he told the audience of about 1,100 at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Washington.

The bishop said devotion to the dignity of the individual person "gets uncomfortable, because it puts us on edge and at the edge of political discourse."

The bishop, the event's keynote speaker, also quoted from Pope Pius XI, who was pope from 1922 to 1939, about the threat of internal discord and political parties with differences based not on philosophical beliefs but on the love of power.

Jeff Cavins, a longtime podcaster, Catholic evangelist and Bible teacher, also addressed breakfast attendees, telling them: "Everything we've been called to is above our gifts. Sharing Jesus and the mission of the Gospel to other people is exactly what the Holy Spirit needs to get into their hearts."

This year's event had no political speakers and only a small political contingent in attendance, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J) co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, Dan Lipinski, former Democrat representative of Illinois, and Sean Spicer former White House press secretary.

The Christifideles Laici Award this year was given to Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, who is currently imprisoned in Hong Kong by the Chinese government for leading a demonstration.

"Never let anyone say your prayers are wasted," said Bill McGurn, the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, accepting on Lai's behalf.

The breakfast has been held annually since 2004.

There was little mention of the upcoming Supreme Court case involving the Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks scheduled to be argued this fall. If the nation's high court upholds the state law, it could overturn the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

"It's anyone's guess," said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, about how the court will rule, in an interview with EWTN which aired during the event.

"I'm as hopeful as anyone else, praying and fasting. But the only justice that's gone on the record (opposing) Roe v. Wade is Justice (Clarence) Thomas," she said. Justice Amy Coney Barrett also was critical of the decision in a 1998 article she wrote while a professor at the Notre Dame School of Law.

If the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi's abortion ban, Maureen Ferguson, a National Catholic Prayer Breakfast board member, said: "We all need to step up for mothers in need."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021