Cardinal Dolan closes out Republican National Convention with prayer

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New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivers the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 30. His benediction included appeals for God's blessing on the unborn, those at the end of their life, for immigrants and for all those who suffer. He also asked for a renewed respect for religious freedom. (CNS photo/Mike Segar, Reuters)

TAMPA, Fla. (CNS) — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York offered the closing prayer at the end of the Republican National Convention in Tampa Aug. 30, thanking God for “the great gift of our beloved country.”

Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will also offer the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention Sept. 6 in Charlotte, N.C.

The cardinal's prayer, which followed Mitt Romney's acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, cast a wide net. He asked God to bless those in this country “yet to be born” and those at the end of their lives. He prayed for families who have been in this country for generations and recent immigrants, soldiers and those looking for jobs.

He also prayed for those “afflicted by the recent storms and drought and fire” and for the “grace to stand in solidarity with all those who suffer.”

“May we strive to include your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, in the production and prosperity of a people so richly blessed,” he said.

The cardinal prayed for God's guidance upon those who govern and those who seek public office. “Help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself,” he said.

He also gave thanks for the “sacred and inalienable gift of life” and for the “singular gift of liberty” and prayed for a renewed “respect for religious freedom” and a “new sense of responsibility for freedom's cause.”

The cardinal's presence at the Republican National Convention — and his similarly scheduled appearance at the Democratic National Convention — is “solely as a pastor, only to pray, not to endorse any party, platform or candidate,” according to a statement by Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese. The cardinal cleared his activity at both conventions with the bishops who preside over the dioceses where the conventions are taking place.

The tradition of prayers at party conventions goes back more than 100 years. Although it is unusual for the same person to pray at both conventions in the same year, it is not without precedent. In 1948, Philadelphia Cardinal Dennis J. Dougherty prayed with both parties when the nominating conventions met in Philadelphia.

Representatives from other faiths who led the daily opening or closing prayers at this year's Republican National Convention included:

— Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, director of Yeshiva University's Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, who delivered the invocation Aug. 28.

— The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, an Assembly of God minister and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, based in Sacramento, Calif., who gave the closing prayer Aug. 28.

— Ishwar Singh, the president of the Sikh Society of Central Florida, who said the opening prayer Aug. 29. He said he was the first Sikh American to deliver the invocation at a national convention.

— Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, who delivered the closing prayer Aug. 29 on behalf of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios, who had been invited to offer the prayer but was unable to do so because of travel.

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