Cardinal Offers Prayers At Both Conventions

Delegates bow their heads for prayer during the opening session of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 27. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will offer closing prayers at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

NEW YORK (CNS) — New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan is scheduled to offer closing prayers at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in the coming days.

Cardinal Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, accepted an invitation from the Democratic convention organizers to deliver the benediction on the last night of the Sept. 4-6 event, after clearing it with Charlotte, N.C., Bishop Peter J. Jugis, said an Aug. 28 statement from Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese.

Since the Charlotte convention is in his diocese, protocol would call for Bishop Jugis to have the say over whether a bishop from another diocese plays such a role.

Zwilling’s statement from the previous week announcing Cardinal Dolan’s participation in the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., said the cardinal had cleared that activity with St. Petersburg, Fla., Bishop Robert N. Lynch, whose diocese includes Tampa.

According to the state, “It was made clear to the Democratic Convention organizers, as it was to the Republicans, that the cardinal was coming solely as a pastor, only to pray, not to endorse any party, platform, or candidate.”

Clergy from several denominations were scheduled to pray at the opening and closing of each day’s sessions of the party conventions. The tradition of such prayers goes back more than 100 years.

It is unusual for the same person to pray at both conventions in the same year, but it’s not without precedent. For example, in 1948, Philadelphia Cardinal Dennis J. Dougherty prayed with both parties when the nominating conventions met in Philadelphia.

Nor does the local Catholic prelate always participate. At the 2008 conventions, neither Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver nor Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn., participated in the Democratic and Republican conventions, respectively, in their cities. Archbishop Chaput said he was never approached about it, and Archbishop Nienstedt said he declined.