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Religious Freedom Message: Pope Makes Surprise Stop at Little Sisters of the Poor


MATT HADRO

Source:
Nat. Cath. Register
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
9/23/2015

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ABSTRACTReligious Freedom Message: Pope Makes Surprise Stop at Little Sisters of the Poor | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  Sept. 20, 2015 Sign-up for our E-letter!   Donate News Blogs Radio Events Resources Advertise Store Subscriptions Make This My Homepage Resources Archives Jobs College Guide Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Jeanette DeMelo Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matthew Archbold Joan Frawley Desmond Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Policies & Guidelines Digital Ad Specs Print Ad Specs Editorial Calendar & Due Dates Order Web Ad Subscribe Discounted Bulk Subscriptions Give a Gift Subscription Renew Your Subscription Renew Your Gift Subscription Change of Address Missed Issues Payments Account Status General Customer Service Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Daily News Daily News Religious Freedom Message: Pope Makes Surprise Stop at Little Sisters of the Poor (3865) ‘This is a sign, obviously, of support’ for the nuns’ HHS mandate court case, papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi affirmed at an evening press conference. Tweet by MATT HADRO/CNA/EWTN NEWS 09/23/2015 Comments (6) Pope Francis converses Sept. 23 with Sister Marie Mathilde, a 102-year-old member of the Little Sisters of the Poor's community in Washington, D.C. – Courtesy Little Sisters of the Poor WASHINGTON — Pope Francis paid a short visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor community in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to support them in their court case over the contraception mandate, the Vatican's spokesman revealed. It was a “short visit that was not in the program,” Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said at an evening press conference during the papal visit to the nation's capital. “This is a sign, obviously, of support for them” in their court case, he affirmed. The sisters had filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its 2012 mandate that employers provide insurance coverage for birth control, sterilizations, and drugs that can cause abortions employee health plans. The sisters have maintained that to provide this coverage would violate their religious beliefs. After the Obama administration modified the rules as an “accommodation” for objecting organizations, the sisters held that even under the revised rules they would have to violate their consciences. The majority of a three-judge panel for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that the Little Sisters of the Poor did not establish that the mandate was a “substantial burden” on their free exercise of religion, and thus ruled they still had to abide by the mandate. “The Holy Father spoke to each of us individually, from the youngest postulant to our centenarian, and then he spoke to all us about the importance of our ministry to the elderly,” Sister Constance Veit, communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, said following the visit. “We were deeply moved by his encouraging words.”  Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the Little Sisters of the Poor in their court challenge against the mandate, said in a email statement, “Today, after Mass at the Basilica, the Pope made an unscheduled visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor where he spoke to each of the Sisters privately and encouraged them in their vocation to serve the elderly and the poor. Earlier in the day, at the White House, the Pope expressed his support for religious liberty when he stated: [we] all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”   ‘An Important Meaning’ The papal visit was not on the official schedule for Pope Francis’ Washington visit, which included Wednesday visits to the White House, a midday prayer service with the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, and the canonization mass for St. Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It was a “little addition to the program, but I think it has an important meaning,” Father Lombardi said. He added that the visit “is connected” to “the words that the Pope has said in support of the position of the bishops of the United States in the speech to President Obama and also in the speech to the bishops.” Pope Francis, with President Obama at the White House, called religious freedom “one of America’s most precious possessions” and had hearkened to the U.S. bishops’ defens.......