Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 10, 2008
Vatican welcomes Obama election
Roman reaction to election positive, U.S. Catholics divided
By Catholic News Service
"America really is the country where anything can happen."
- Giuseppe Fiorentino
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said that because the message was addressed personally to Obama the Vatican did not plan to publish it.
However, he said, the papal message opened by referring to the "historic occasion" of the election, marking the first time a black man has been elected president of the United States.
Asked if the pope mentioned any specific issues he was concerned about, Lombardi responded, "peace, solidarity and justice."
Lombardi said it is likely a formal message also will be sent on the occasion of Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration. In past years, the Vatican custom has been that the pope congratulates a new U.S. president only when he formally takes office.
In the U.S., Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. bishops, congratulated Obama on his "historic election" as the first African-American to win the White House.
"The people of our country have entrusted you with a great responsibility," the cardinal said in a letter to Obama on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But he also said, "We stand ready to work with you in defence and support of the life and dignity of every human person."
In Nov. 5 statements and other comments, some Catholic leaders praised Obama for his history-making victory. But others, including Catholic bishops, said they hoped the new administration would make decisions that show a "commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life."
Still other Catholics, including pro-life leaders, expressed profound disappointment that a candidate who supports abortion rights was elected.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a statement the electorate made "a grave mistake."
Pavone pointed to a comment Obama made during the campaign that the priest paraphrased by saying that "he does not know when a human being starts to have human rights."
Others noted that the election of Joseph Biden as vice-president is the first time in almost 50 years that a Catholic has been elected on a national ticket.
In a column in the Chicago Sun-Times daily newspaper, priest-sociologist Father Andrew Greeley said it appears more than half of U.S. Catholics voted for Obama.
"How could they do that when their bishops ordered them to vote for John McCain?" Greeley asked. "In fact, no such order was issued, though some bishops came pretty close to it."
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