Bishop Tobin holds 'Prayer for Our Nation' Mass

Bishop Tobin holds 'Prayer for Our Nation' Mass on Inauguration Day
PROVIDENCE — As elected officials throughout the state pledged to faithfully carry out their duties during inauguration ceremonies, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin celebrated a Holy Mass as a “Prayer for Our Nation” at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.
The Mass, he said, was scheduled about six weeks ago to provide an opportunity to pray for God’s blessing and guidance upon the state and country during a time when there are many “challenges” taking place.
  “We do so knowing that if God is with us, all things are possible,” Bishop Tobin said during the liturgy, which was held at noon on Tuesday, January 6.
“But if God is not on our side, we can achieve nothing. It’s in that spirit of faith, confidence and trust that we join together.”

During his homily, Bishop Tobin noted that praying for government leaders is a Christian tradition. He also quoted Pope Francis, who recently said that “a good Catholic meddles in politics,” and offers the best of himself or herself in hopes that those who govern lead with integrity, wisdom and compassion.

“But what is the best thing to offer to those who govern?” Bishop Tobin asked an assembly of about 200 people. “Our prayers. Our Holy Father encourages us to be involved in these current events actively, but also with our prayers. Every Christian should be concerned and involved in public affairs.”

Bishop Tobin went on to say that speaking up at political issues is an important part of his pastoral role. He vows to continue to publicly defend God.
“After all, the bishop is chosen and anointed to be a teacher, to be a preacher, to be a prophet, to bring God’s word to contemporary issues,” he said. “It’s the obligation not of the bishop only to speak out in this way, but every Christian. Every Christian has a right and a duty to be involved in public affairs and speak out on these public issues.”

Amidst those in attendance were Irma Rodriguez, interim coordinator for the diocesan Special Religious Development program, and Silvio Cuellar, Office of Hispanic Ministry coordinator and editor of El Católico de Rhode Island. They expressed their affinity for the bishop’s homily.
“It was extraordinary,” Rodriguez said. “The bishop is so right. He really inspires and reminds us what we are all about and what we need to do.”
Cuellar feels the same.

“I like that the bishop stated that his mission is to not only be a spiritual leader, but a preacher and a prophet,” he said. “It was a nice way to start the year and pray for those elected.”
Bea England, a parishioner at St. Mary in Cranston, also attended the Mass. During the homily, she softly whispered, “Amen,” several times.

“I agree with him,” she said of the bishop. “We, as the people of God, should speak out.”
The Mass took place during the same time that Governor Gina Raimondo was sworn in as Rhode Island’s 75th governor at a State House ceremony. Earlier that morning, Raimondo, a Roman Catholic and 1989 La Salle Academy valedictorian, attended Mass at St. Raymond Parish in Providence with her husband and their two children.

While Bishop Tobin recently received an invitation to the inaugural ceremonies, he had already scheduled a “Prayer for Our Nation.” He presumes that the invite was extended as a courtesy and sign of friendship and respect.

“I didn’t make too much of the fact that it came at the last moment because they knew and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to attend,” he said to a group of local reporters, adding that he also held Mass on Inauguration Day four years ago. “It’s a very important and special day for Governor Raimondo and her family. We wish her all the best as she begins her work as governor.”
But that doesn’t mean he plans to support Raimondo’s stance on abortion, as Raimondo said she would oppose efforts to include an option in the Rhode Island health-insurance exchange that would prohibit abortion or contraception services. She also vowed to seek the repeal of a 1997 Rhode Island law banning Partial Birth Abortion, saying the law is “unconstitutional.”
During election season, Bishop Tobin posted a statement on social media about how “disappointing” it is “when a Catholic candidate for political office abandons the teaching of the Church on the dignity of human life for the sake of self-serving political gain.” He noted that “such actions demonstrate an inexcusable lack of moral courage.”

Though he never directly referenced Raimondo, he issued the statement not long after Planned Parenthood of Southern New England publically endorsed the then-candidate. Raimondo, who is the first female governor in Rhode Island history, as well as the first Democrat to win the office in more than 20 years, accepted the pro-abortion organization’s support.
“It’s very appropriate for the bishop to be [at the cathedral] to lead the local Church in prayer today more so than attending an inauguration, which can become a very political and very partisan event,” said Bishop Tobin. “I also find it personally difficult to attend the inauguration of any official, not just our governor, who supports abortion. It’s a terrible sin and a grave world evil. I’ll always be uncomfortable celebrating the inauguration of a public official who has publically supported abortion.”

Still, as the Catholic Church remains a large and important presence in Rhode Island, Bishop Tobin said he hopes to work in close cooperation with the new governor, as well as other local leaders, on areas of common concern.
Before the Mass at the cathedral ended, Bishop Tobin reminded the congregation of the importance of carrying on God’s work.

“In the birth of Jesus Christ, God inserted himself into our world and its everyday concerns,” he said. “Now, it’s our turn. Let us now be the eyes, the ears, the voice, the heart, and the hands of Christ in our world. Let us pray for, and work for a better and more peaceful and more just world.”

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