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USCCB president, pope, members of Nashville Diocese offer prayers for President Biden

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Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Biden’s wife, Jill, holds the family Bible during his inauguration at the Capitol in Washington Jan. 20, 2021. CNS photo/Andrew Harnik, pool via Reuters

As Joe Biden prepared to be inaugurated as the 46th U.S. president, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered prayers for the incoming president.

“I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all,” he said in a Jan. 20 statement.

Archbishop Gomez expressed hope the incoming administration “will work with the Church and others of goodwill” to “address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families.”

“If the president, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs,” Archbishop Gomez said.

For the U.S. bishops, the “continued injustice of abortion” remains the “pre-eminent priority,” he said, but “‘preeminent’ does not mean ‘only.’ We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society.”

“I look forward to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition,” he said.

“Our priorities are never partisan,” he explained. “We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.”

Working with Biden will be “unique,” the archbishop said, because he is the first president in six decades who is Catholic.

“In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a president who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions,” the prelate said.

However, Archbishop Gomez cautioned that Biden has “pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender.”

“Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences,” he added.

The bishops hold deep concerns about “many threats to human life and dignity in our society,” Archbishop Gomez said, including abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration policy, racism, poverty, care for the environment, criminal justice reform, economic development and international peace.

The Catholic Church’s “commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area – such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person,” he noted, “are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.”

Archbishop JosÈ H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is seen at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome Jan. 31, 2020. CNS photo/Paul Haring

“But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion,” he said.

“It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities,” he said.

The prelate also said it was his hope to work with the administration to “finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities.”

Archbishop Gomez concluded his statement saying that Biden’s call for national healing and unity is a welcome one, saying it was “urgently needed” as the country continues to confront the pandemic and social isolation “that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.”

He also called for continued prayer that “God will give our new president, and all of us, the grace to seek the common good with all sincerity.”

The full text of Archbishop Gomez’s statement can be found on the USCCB website at https://bit.ly/2XUU6Vi.

Pope prays Biden works to heal divisions, promote human dignity

Pope Francis prayed that President Joe Biden would work to heal the divisions in U.S. society and promote human dignity and peace around the globe.

“Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding,” the pope wrote in a congratulatory message Jan. 20 as Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States.

Popes traditionally have sent such messages and assurances of prayer to a new U.S. president upon his inauguration and have included mention of issues of concern, particularly about the dignity of every human life.

“At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses,” Pope Francis wrote to Biden, “I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice.”

Joe Biden greets Jesuit Father Leo O’Donovan during Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 20, 2021. CNS photo/Brendan McDermid, Reuters

“I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good,” he said.

Pope Francis also prayed that Biden, his family and “the beloved American people” would receive “an abundance of blessings.”

Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president after John F. Kennedy, has not always publicly supported legislation in line with all the Church’s teachings, particularly when it comes to abortion. But his faith has been reflected in a range of other issues, especially concern for the poor, care for the environment, immigration policy and international peace.

Pope Francis already had a phone conversation with Biden Nov. 12 to congratulate him on winning the election.

The pope and Biden have met on several occasions: as vice president, Biden attended Pope Francis’ inauguration in 2013 and the two met briefly afterward; when Pope Francis visited the United States in 2015, Biden was present for several events, but he and his wife also had a private meeting with the pope; and in 2016 the two met when Biden spoke at a Vatican meeting on regenerative medicine.

Diocese of Nashville offers prayers for country, new president

Early on the morning of inauguration day, the Diocese of Nashville encouraged people to pray for the country and for incoming President Joe Biden.

“Let’s unite in prayer. Today is a day of transition for our nation, so let us wrap it in prayer,” read a message on the Diocese of Nashville’s Facebook page on Jan. 20.

“Regardless of your political affiliation, we need to be praying for those who are leading our country,” said Joan Watson, director of the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Faith Formation. “Prayer is the single most powerful thing we can do. Prayer works miracles,” she said.

The Facebook post encouraged people to pray the rosary at 11 a.m., the Angelus at noon, the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m., and the Angelus at 6 p.m. on inauguration day. The message also included the prayer, “Immaculate Mary, patroness of the United States of America, guard and guide our nation.”

Watson suggested setting an intention, such as praying for strength and courage for elected officials to govern well. “We should pray that they follow the will of God for our country,” she said. “I would suggest praying for all Americans, that we can live together in love and work together for the common good.”

All are called to pray for the country’s leaders, Watson said. “Even if we disagree about fundamental things with our political leaders, with our family members, with our friends, we can still together go to God and ask for his protection on our country, on the most vulnerable, and on the future,” Watson said.

“We need to place our country in His hands. I think we can all agree on that!”

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