DALLAS. When Karen Garnett received a White House invitation recently, she thought it was a gift from heaven. She would be among those who would greet Pope Benedict when he arrived in the United States for the first apostolic journey of his pontificate. The pope, who is celebrating Masses in Washington, D.C., andNew York, arrived April 15. His journey extends through April 20, with a speech before the United Nations and a visit to Ground Zero.
For Garnett, Executive Director of the Dallas Catholic Pro-Life Committee, attending the White House ceremony and other papal events, is a way of showing her solidarity with the pope as he fosters a pro-life environment.
“Anyone who has ever heard me speak knows that I often reference Pope John Paul II’s prophetic message to America when he was leaving here on Sept. 19, 1987,” Garnett said. “He said that the condition for our survival as a society depended on restoring legal protection to the unborn. Since Roe v. Wade, there have now been nearly 50 million babies aborted in our country alone. It is a tragedy of unprecedented proportions.
“Pope Benedict XVI echoed John Paul’s message when he said that ‘guaranteeing the right to life is a duty upon which the future of humanity depends.’
Along with husband Eddie, Garnett counts colleagues and friends who are with her on the pilgrimage: From the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat, Tom Grenchik, RichardDoerflinger, Deirdre McQuade, and Mary Jaminet; Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life; John Jakubczyk, father of 11 children and former president of Arizona Right to Life; David Bereit, National Director of the 40 Days for Life Campaign; Janet Morana, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign; U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, head of the Bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus in the House of Representatives, and Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell. About 9,000 people attended the welcoming ceremony.
“Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor before him, has not been afraid to vigorously proclaim the gospel of life at almost every opportunity,” Garnett commented.“He especially has made clear that attacks on human life and ‘the dictatorship of relativism’ we find ourselves immersed in are in direct conflict with the message ofthe gospel. The central path out of the conflict is reflected in his first two encyclicals, ‘God is Love’ and ‘Saved by Hope.’
“Both encyclicals attempt to restore the correct relationship between God and man in the light of God’s revelation, Jesus Christ, who is the one that brings God (life) to us in his person. This is an important distinction in the work of the pro-life movement today, knowing that those who have abortions often do not feel the presence of God in their lives,” she said. Both encyclicals also reorient the work of the Church toward the spiritual, she believes. “The work of the many social agencies in the Church, including those in the prolife movement, must be preceded by a living witness to the person of Jesus Christ which allows the work of the apostolate to bear fruit,”
Besides greeting the pope and attending the papal Mass, Garnett also attended the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast April 18.
“Pope Benedict has continued the work of the great mercy Pope, John Paul II, in reaching out to those who have suffered from abortion,” she said. “In a recent address to participants of an international conference, he challenged all those in the church to help those who have been affected by abortion by saying ‘The Catholic Church has an obligation to minister to women who have been victimized by abortion.’
“Benedict tells us that abortion leaves an ‘unhealed wound’ in the souls of the post-abortive, that millions of women are left ‘physically, emotionally and spiritually wounded’ after abortion, and that ‘Catholics must reach out to them.’ “We greatly appreciate the pope’s candor in discussing the sometimes difficult truth about what abortion is,” she said, “and what it does to the women involved. We hope many people will follow his example.”
A spiritual bouquet from the Dallas pro-life community was presented to the pope while he was in Washington.
“I am absolutely elated, humbled, honored — I can’t adequately put in words how very excited I am to be among those who will be the first group to welcome His Holiness to our country — and at the White House, where I have never been,” Garnett told Texas Catholic shortly before leaving for Washington. “It’s such an honor for me to have been invited by the President and Mrs. Bush to represent the entire Dallas pro-life community at this historic event — only the second pope to visit the White House (Pope John Paul II was the first), and the arrival ceremony is happening on his 81st birthday as well.
“What a blessing to be able to be with our Holy Father on his birthday! I am excited to receive his blessing, for the entire Dallas pro-life community, in person, and to include everyone’s intentions with my own at the Papal Mass.”
(Debra Hampton is managing editor for Texas Catholic.)
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