The White House
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release June 06, 2017
Washington Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. To Carl Anderson, to Archbishop Broglio, Mother Olga, Bishop Dorsonville, Secretary Nicholson, distinguished members of Congress, and honored guests, I am so honored to join you for the 13th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. Thank you all for being here. (Applause.)
And it’s early in the day, but I promise you, he starts early. (Laughter.) And I bring greetings from my friend, a man who appreciates the extraordinary contributions of Catholic Americans, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
Before I go much further, first and foremost, let me begin this morning by expressing the sorrow of our entire administration and all the American people for the horrific terror attacks this weekend in London and with word this morning of another terrorist attack in Melbourne, Australia.
Our hearts break for the families of the victims and the injured — just the latest innocents to suffer at the hands of terrorists, joining those in Manchester, in Kabul, in Paris, in Istanbul, Brussels, Berlin, San Bernardino. They have our prayers. They have our unwavering resolve.
As the President said two nights ago, this bloodshed must end and this bloodshed will end. (Applause.)
But to be with you today is deeply meaningful to me. I’m truly honored to join this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. My mom would be so proud. (Laughter and applause.)
Since 2004, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has brought together leaders in the Church, leaders in public life, leaders from across the globe to live out Saint John Paul the Second’s call for a “New Evangelization”, and to rekindle the flame of faith that gives comfort to the weary and lights the world with its glow. This honestly feels like coming home to me. (Applause.)
I’m the son of two devout American Catholics, and the grandson and the namesake of an Irish immigrant and his wonderful wife. And I just learned from Father Jenkins at Notre Dame, where I had the opportunity to speak, as Carl told you, that even though my official biography says I was raised in a large Catholic family, I’m actually from a mid-sized Catholic family — only six children in the family I grew up. (Laughter.)
The hymns and liturgies of the Catholic Church are the anthems of my youth. The Bible says “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old, he’ll not depart from it.”
I want to tell you as a young boy growing up in a small town in southern Indiana, my Catholic faith poured an eternal foundation in my life. I did eight years of hard time at Catholic school. (Laughter.) The name Sister Rachel still sends a shiver down my spine. (Laughter.) Honestly, I was the beneficiary of an extraordinary Catholic education, went to public high school. But that foundation continues to serve and inform me every day.
I was one of four boys and two girls. But being one of four boys was very convenient for Father Gleason (ph), because he could call my dad in a pinch and have a full team of altar boys ready for any mass. (Laughter.) So we lost count of the number of times we were rousted from bed early at the Sunday because there had been cancellations. But it was very special.
I was not only baptized in the Church, but I was confirmed, and I stand before you today as Michael Richard Christopher Pence. (Applause.)
While my own faith journey has taken me and my family in a different direction, I want you all to know how much I cherish my Catholic upbringing and cherish the Church. In fact, I just attended mass with my mom this weekend when we were in Chicago with family.
I really grew up with a front-row seat to the Catholic faith and all that it means to families and to communities. It gave me a deep appreciation for the Church’s rich contributions to the fabric of American life.
The truth is Catholicism is woven deep into that fabric. It gives America a vitality and vibrancy that inspires everyone who sees it — to this very day.
Even from the hour of our nation’s birth, the Catholic Church was there. The last signer of the Declaration of Independence to pass away was the only Catholic signer, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland.
His cousin, John, served as the first bishop and archbishop of the Catholic Church in the United States.
What began as a trickle became a deluge in American history, as waves of Catholic immigrants — like my grandfather — from places like Ireland, from Italy, from Germany, and indeed, from across the wider world made landfall in America, drawn here by the promise of freedom, of opportunity, prosperity; and most of all, it was the freedom to practice their faith that is the birthright of every American.
And now our history books are filled with the names of the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church. And as the Bible says, we recognize them by their fruits. There are among us here today some distinguished men and women in public life, in public service who are emblematic of that contribution. And I’m honored to be able to address you all.
American Catholics have built everything that matters in this country — build families, build businesses, founded hospitals, ministered to the poor, become leaders in public life, established world-class institutions of higher education, and so many other countless contributions to America.
And maybe most importantly Catholics have worn the uniform of the United States of America in every conflict in American history since our nation’s founding. (Applause.)
And American Catholics and their family continue to participate in our armed forces to this very moment. At this very time in far-flung places in the world, men and women that have grown up in the heart of Catholic families are wearing the uniform and serving our country, and we honor them.
We also honor those who have served. And would all those who are present here today who have worn the uniform of the United States of America, would those men and women please stand up and allow us to thank you for your service and putting teeth on your faith in defending our freedom? (Applause.)
Thank you for your service.
Catholicism has made an indelible mark on the American spirit. Your faith has moved mountains, and the Catholic Church and its millions of parishioners have been a force for good in our communities, large and small, throughout our land, throughout our history.
To all the great American Catholics gathered here, let me assure you this morning, bright and early at this prayer breakfast, American Catholics have an ally in President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
President Trump stands for the religious liberty of every American and the right of our people of faith to live out your convictions in the public square.
President Trump stands with those who are persecuted for their faith around the world — no matter the country they call home or the creed they profess.
And President Donald Trump stands with the most vulnerable — the aged, the infirm, and the unborn. (Applause.)
On the first count, I can assure you this President believes that no American should have to violate their conscience to fully participate in American life. (Applause.) And he has not just talked about it, he has taken action to protect men and women of faith in the public square.
Just last month, the Little Sisters of the Poor were at the White House, and on that day, I had the high honor to stand as President Trump signed an executive order to restore religious liberty in the public square. I couldn’t have been more proud. (Applause.)
As inspired as I was by the President’s actions, I was even more inspired by the Little Sisters of the Poor. They took a big stand for faith and freedom, and they prevailed. Would we give the Little Sisters of the Poor a big round of applause for the stand they took on behalf of all our faith? (Applause.)
Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Trump declared in his words that the “federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs,” and he directed the Department of Justice to “develop new rules” to protect Americans of faith in the public square.
And I can promise you, President Trump will continue to fight to ensure that every American has the freedom to follow the dictates of their conscience and add their voices and their values to the beautiful tapestry of America’s national life. (Applause.)
And this President stands for religious liberty in America and across the wider world. Just last month, President Trump traveled across the Middle East and Europe, where I know he was deeply honored and moved to have the opportunity to meet with the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
The President and the Pope had a lengthy and meaningful discussion about issues facing our world, about how our nation and the Church can work together to address them — especially the persecution of people of faith across the wider world.
In Saudi Arabia, only a few days earlier on the world stage, President Trump had condemned in his words, “the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews,” and he condemned “the slaughter of Christians” across the wider Arab world. (Applause.)
This is a President who knows that terrorism is an existential threat to people of faith in countries around the globe. Terrorist groups seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own, or not their version of their own, and believers of many backgrounds have suffered grievously at their hands. And we acknowledge all of that loss and suffering.
But it seems that the practitioners of terror harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ, and none more so than the barbarians known as ISIS.