WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence exhorted those in attendance at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday to continue to be a “voice for the voiceless,” after proclaiming that “life is winning” in the nation.
“Life is winning in America. Life is winning through the steady advance of science that continues to illuminate more and more when life begins,” Pence told the audience in Washington, D.C., June 6.
He added that the pro-life cause is advancing also “through the generosity of millions of adoptive families” and “through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis-pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations.”
Pence addressed an estimated crowd of 1,300 at the 13th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast attended by many Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A., and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington.
The vice president stated: “I believe we’ve come to a pivotal moment in the life of our nation, and, indeed, the life of the world. The Catholic community in America has made an enormous difference in the life of this nation.”
“And at this moment, I urge you to continue to stand up, to speak out, to continue to be that voice for the voiceless that the Church has been throughout its history. Continue to be the hands and feet of our Savior, reaching in with love and compassion, embracing the dignity of all people of every background and every experience.”
Pence also reflected on the importance of daily prayer, saying that “in these challenging times, I encourage you to take time every day to pray” with confidence, insisting that there is “so much need for healing” today.
The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has taken place each year since 2004 as a response to St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization.” Political leaders are invited to attend and speak, but the event is non-partisan.
Past keynote speakers have included Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; House Speaker Paul Ryan; the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; and former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, Archbishop Broglio and Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, addressed the audience.
Archbishop Broglio told those present to remember the virtues as the key to living heroic lives and being good citizens.
“The practice of virtue also leads to good citizenship,” he said, noting that there is “no dichotomy between faith and life if we practice good virtue.”
“Each of us has the potential to rebuild our society and our world if we cultivate authentic virtue,” he continued.
Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, introduced Pence by saying that the U.S. needs a “new national political consensus” built on faith.
He added that “the times require men and women of prayer and humility, courage and conviction, leaders who can help bring healing to our nation.”
Pence began his keynote address by expressing his sorrow on behalf of the administration at the recent terror attacks in London that killed seven and injured 48, after attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, disembarked from the vehicle and stabbed other persons in the vicinity on Saturday.
Pence also mentioned Monday’s hostage situation in Melbourne, Australia, in which a gunman was killed in a shootout with police and several officers were injured, according to the BBC.
“Our hearts break for the families and the victims,” Pence said. “They have our prayers. They have our unwavering resolve.”
Pence, one of six children, was baptized and raised Catholic, but said in October’s vice-presidential debate that “my Christian faith became real for me when I made a personal decision for Christ when I was a freshman in college.”
He referred to himself as a “born-again evangelical-Catholic” in a 1994 interview and began attending an evangelical megachurch with his family in the 1990s. He now says in public that he is a Christian.
Pence recalled on Tuesday that he received the sacrament of confirmation as a youth, with the name “Michael Richard Christopher Pence.” He also noted how “my Catholic faith poured an eternal foundation in my life” during his childhood in Indiana and joked that he spent “eight years of hard time in a Catholic school” and as such is the “beneficiary of an extraordinary Catholic education.”
“My own faith journey has taken me and my family in a different direction,” he said on Tuesday. Pence has not revealed which church he regularly attends. He stated Tuesday that he had “just attended Mass this weekend with my mom in Chicago.”
“My mom would be so proud,” he said of his speaking at the Catholic prayer breakfast, adding that “this honestly feels like coming home to me.”
He focused some of his speech on persecuted Christians worldwide, maintaining that the Trump administration is committed to promoting and protecting the freedom of religion. He said the administration “stands with those who are persecuted for their faith around the world” and “stands with the most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm and the unborn.”
Pence also cited President Donald Trump’s executive order on religious freedom, issued last month, as an “action to protect men and women of faith in the public square.”
The order, which granted “regulatory relief” to religious organizations fighting the previous administration’s contraception mandate, was nonetheless criticized by certain religious-freedom advocates as being not broad enough. One chief criticism was that it failed to protect persons and institutions sued for discrimination for not supporting same-sex “marriage.”
Pence also mentioned Trump’s May 24 meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, saying the president and the Pope had a “lengthy and meaningful discussion about issues facing our world, about how our nation and the Church can work together.”
In particular, one area of collaboration could be to counter “the persecution of people of faith across the wider world,” he said on Tuesday, noting recent violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt as well as the genocide of Christians in Iraq and Syria. “I believe that ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide,” he said of the terror group the Islamic State.
“Protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign-policy priority of this administration,” he insisted.
However, the administration has yet to appoint an international religious-freedom ambassador, a key position in the State Department charged with promoting religious freedom as part of U.S. diplomacy.
Pence further praised the contribution of the Church in America: “I really grew up with a front-row seat to the Catholic faith and all that it means to families and to communities. It gave me a deep appreciation for the Church’s rich contributions to the fabric of American life. The truth is Catholicism is woven deep into that fabric. It gives America a vitality and vibrancy that inspires everyone who sees it — to this very day.
“Even from the hour of our nation’s birth, the Catholic Church was there. The last signer of the Declaration of Independence to pass away was the only Catholic signer, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland. His cousin, John, served as the first bishop and archbishop of the Catholic Church in the United States. …
“And now our history books are filled with the names of the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church. And as the Bible says, we recognize them by their fruits. …
“American Catholics have built everything that matters in this country — built families, built businesses, founded hospitals, ministered to the poor, become leaders in public life, established world-class institutions of higher education, and so many other countless contributions to America.”
The vice president’s full remarks can be read here.