In what could signal a marked change of tone following a bruising campaign struggle beween the Catholic hierarchy and the Obama administration, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has sent President Obama a message congratulating him on his reelection.
Dolan asked first that Obama pursue the "common good," a concept both the church and the administration stress, and that he work to protect "the most vulnerable" -- from the poor to the unborn to the immigrant. The cardinal also reminded the president about the church's positions against abortion and gay marriage, and on behalf of religious freedom.
Dolan then concluded with a plea to "help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone." After the many fiery denunciations of Obama from conservative Catholics, including many bishops, that plea could have an audience beyond the Oval Office.
Here is the text of Cardinal Dolan's message:
Dear President Obama,
In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States. The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility. The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.
In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant. We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom. We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.
May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
And from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI also sent best wishes and prayers:
In his Message, the Holy Father offers his best wishes to the President, and promises continued prayers on his behalf. The Pope assures the re-elected President that he will ask God to help him in his high responsibility to the country and the international community. The Pope also says he will pray that the ideals of freedom and justice, which guided the founders of the United States of America, might continue to shine through the nation as it makes its way in history.
The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Federico Lombardi, SJ, commented:
All hope that President Obama, confirmed in his office after the elections, will respond to the expectations of his fellow citizens; that he might serve right and justice for the benefit and growth of every person, in respect for those human and spiritual values, which are essential to the promotion of the culture of life and religious freedom, which are ever so precious in the tradition and culture of the American people, so that that people might be capable of finding the best ways to promote the material and spiritual welfare of all; so that it can effectively promote integral human development, justice and peace in the world.