WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fighting terrorism and religious persecution, the defense of life, and commitment to religious freedom were at the top of Vice President Mike Pence’s message to Catholics on Tuesday at the 13th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
The Vice President brought greetings from President Donald Trump. He then expressed sorrow over the weekend terror attack in London, as well as Tuesday morning word of a new terror attack in Melbourne, Australia. “Just the latest innocents to suffer at the hands of terrorists, joining those in Manchester, in Kabul, in Paris, in Istanbul, Brussels, Berlin and San Bernardino. They have our prayers, they have our unwavering resolve and as the president said two nights ago, ‘this bloodshed must end’ and ‘this bloodshed will end,’” he said.
Pence then focused on the prayer event. “My mother would be so proud,” he said, “This honestly feels like coming home to me.” The Vice President said he is the son of two devout, American Catholics.
“The Bible says train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” said Pence. “I did eight years of hard time at Catholic school,” he joked, “The name of sister Rachel still sends a shiver down my spine.” He went on to express great appreciation for that “extraordinary” Catholic education.
“The last signer of the Declaration of Independence to pass away was the only Catholic signer, Charles Carroll,” Pence continued. He pointed to many that came from across the world to America for freedom, opportunity, prosperity, but most of all “it was the freedom to practice their faith that is the birthright of every American.”
He assured all the American Catholics gathered, “President Trump stands with the most vulnerable: the aged, the infirm and the unborn.”
Pence said Trump has backed up his promises with actions. He recalled Trump’s religious liberty executive order and the Little Sisters of the Poor, who stood up in the Rose Garden of the White House on the day he signed that order. Pence led a standing ovation in recognition of the bravery of the Little Sisters of the Poor to stand up for faith and freedom.
He said Trump would defend American’s right to “follow the dictates of their conscience and add their voices and their values to the beautiful tapestry of America’s national life.” Pence added that Trump stands for religious liberty not only in America but across the world.
Vice President Pence mentioned the President’s recent meeting with Pope Francis while visiting the Vatican. He said the two “had a lengthy and meaningful discussion” regarding the U.S. and the church working together to address “issues facing our world” and “especially the persecution of people of faith across the wider world.”
Pence said the President knows terrorism as an “existential threat” to people of faith worldwide.
“Terrorist groups seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own, or not their version of their own, and believers of many backgrounds have suffered grievously at their hands,” said Pence. “It seems that the practitioners of terror harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ, and none more so than the barbarians known as ISIS.”
“I believe ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide,” he said. Pence spoke of Christians martyred in Egypt on Palm Sunday, ancient churches destroyed in Iraq where priests and monks have been beheaded and Christian communities burned and women and children sold into slavery in Syria.
Pence then spoke of meeting with Syrian and Caldean church leaders whose parishioners face horrors, but retain a resolve. One bishop told the Vice President of such resolve, of returning to his home parish in Mosul to celebrate Easter Sunday in church with no roof and falling down walls, “But the anthems of faith rose. It had to be a glorious service,” said Pence.
The number of Christians in Syria has plummeted from 1.25 million to 500,000 in six years, he said. “Whether in Mosul, in Iraq, or in Syria, the followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the last decade and a half. This must end. This will end.”
Pence said the Trump Administration is committed to “bringing relief and comfort to the believers in that ancient land.” He added that they will fight terrorists “on our terms, on their soil until we drive the cancer of terrorism from the face of the Earth.”
The Vice President reaffirmed Trump’s support for life shown in reinstating “Mexico City Policy to prevent taxpayer funding from organizations that perform or promote abortions abroad,” adding that the policy was recently expanded to cover nearly $9 billion in foreign aid.
The Vice President spoke of the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, which elicited a standing ovation from the crowd. He also mentioned the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Pence urged the crowd, “Stand for the change that this nation so desperately needs, a change back to a safer America, a more prosperous America, an America standing tall in the world again for our values and our ideals — standing with our allies and against our enemies.”
“Remember to bow the head and bend the knee and pray” in these challenging times, said Pence, who encouraged the crowd to “pray with confidence.”
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