Silently believing

Pope Benedict XVI. has congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on his re-election. In his congratulatory message, he reminded him of his great responsibility for his own country as well as for the international community. He will pray for success in second term, he said. Obama himself keeps his Christian faith in private as much as possible.

Pope Benedict XVI. exhorted the U.S. president to hold fast to the ideals of liberty and justice that would have guided his country's founding fathers.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi expressed hope that Obama would "effectively promote sustainable development, justice and peace in the world". He pointed to the general expectation of the U.S. president to promote the common good and, in particular, the religious freedom of all citizens, which "has always been a high priority in the tradition of the American people and their culture".

U.S. bishops previously gave election endorsements for Romney
Half of the Catholics in the U.S. voted for Barack Obama, helping to make his second term possible. But the other half and a clear majority of Protestants voted for challenger Mitt Romney. One reason may have been Obama's policies on abortion, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage.

Before the election, several Catholic bishops had made clear election recommendations for Romney: The approximately 300.000 members of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay in northern Wisconsin had z.B. Bishop David Laurin Ricken has made it unmistakably clear what he expects the outcome of the election to be. Ricken declared that "one's soul is put in jeopardy" if one votes for a party that deviates from the "fundamental content of faith and morals" on any of five "non-negotiable" fields: Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, human cloning, and same-sex marriage.

Bishop Ricken was not alone in this. Numerous Catholic bishops had taken a position in recent weeks with statements. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Illinois called Democratic Party support for "gay marriage" and a "right to abortion" "intrinsically evil and deeply sinful". The party program of the Republicans speaks out against abortion in principle. The "unborn child" has a "fundamental individual right to life that must not be violated".

Archbishop John Myers of Newark in the state of New Jersey had urged the faithful not to vote for any candidate who did not support the traditional form of marriage. Catholics with sympathies for "gay marriage" should no longer receive communion. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn called it "inconceivable" that a Catholic could give his vote to incumbent Barack Obama. The reason for this was the liberal stance of the president and his party on the abortion ie. Catholics who voted for a candidate with such positions were positioning themselves outside the church, DiMarzio pointed out.

Catholic Advisory Team
Obama's advocacy of gay marriage also faces criticism within the Catholic Church. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the trend "very saddening.". "We cannot be silent in the face of words and actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the true cornerstone of our society." Obama's stance was "unfortunately not surprising" but in line with other actions that undermined or ignored the institution of marriage.

In a 2010 manifesto, 145 representatives of the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches declared that they were not prepared to obey laws requiring their institutions to participate in abortions or forcing them to recognize same-sex partnerships as marriage. The document is titled: "Manhattan Declaration – A Call of the Christian Conscience". It says: "We pledge to each other and to our fellow believers that no power in this world, whether cultural or political, will intimidate and silence us."The goal of the manifesto is to signal to President Obama that Christian leaders in the country are united and unwilling to compromise on ies such as abortion, stem-cell research or "gay marriage".

On the campaign trail, Obama had then assembled a team of Catholic advisers. The Catholics for Obama panel was designed to promote Democratic positions on ethical ies to Catholic voters. Apparently with some success.

Religious diversity grows
Catholics made up a quarter of the electorate and participated in the election at a higher rate than non-Catholics. Admittedly, they did not vote as a bloc this time either. Four years ago, Obama won 54 percent of the Catholic vote – even though his position on abortion, for example, was well known. Now, after four years of liberal Obama policies, it was still 50 percent – among Protestants, 42 percent.

Compared to Germany, the U.S. is a religious nation. But religious diversity is growing, and so are the numbers of those who distance themselves from churches and faith communities. Although it still says "In God we trust" on banknotes, when U.S. Americans speak of their faith today, it is no longer clear which God is meant. This was brought to light by a recently published study by the "Pew Research Center", in which 3.484 U.S. citizens were surveyed. According to the survey, one in five U.S. respondents said they were religiously unaffiliated. In 1990, this was only eight percent. Young people in particular are now distancing themselves from organized religion. One-third of U.S. Americans under age 30 do not belong to any faith community.

Obama's own faith is one that is practiced in silence – Obama, because of his restraint and analytical reserve, also called "Mr.Called "cool," doesn't like to flaunt his Christianity publicly. This puts him in contrast to many of his predecessors who, watched by TV cameras, went to church. Sometimes he picks up the phone aboard Air Force One and calls pastors he knows well to talk and pray together: in 30.000 feet in altitude the worshipper, in a Chicago church or in Orlando his spiritual adviser. Occasionally in the morning, before the responsibilities of his office come crashing down on him, he reaches for his Blackberry and reads spiritual texts on the small screen.

The traditional "Church of the Presidents," created by one of Washington's architectural founders, Benjamin Latrobe, shortly after 1800, St. John "s Episcopal Church, has no more become Obama "s spiritual home than another house of worship in Washington. He let it be known that he was too worried that the arrival of the "First Family" would cause a commotion that would disturb the faithful in their devotions.

Eternal rumors
Obama, who invoked Jesus Christ and Christian ideals of faith far more frequently during the 2008 campaign than he did after taking office, is paying a high price for his faith, which is kept private. According to surveys, many Americans still believe the president is a Muslim. Asked where they got this supposed knowledge, the majority replied: from the media. This could also be due to the fact that conservative Republican media, above all Rupert Murdoch's right-wing "Fox News" channel, often paint distorted images of a president who is "different".

Such rumors also gained further weight in 2010 with Obama's advocacy of building an Islamic center at "Ground Zero" in New York. Like other supporters of New York Muslims, Obama pointed out that religious freedom is a high good in the U.S. – and applies to every religious community. Critics, however, accused the president of disrespecting the memory of the more than 3.000 victims killed by the Islamist terrorist attack of 11. September 2001 demanded. And insinuated that he was close to Muslim positions.

Obama did not meet this with actionism, suddenly taking his faith public. Continued to participate in religious events of various faiths, from the traditional Prayer Breakfast to Ramadan speeches to the (almost simultaneous) lighting of candles on the Jewish menorah at Channukah in December and the flipping of the switch to light thousands of energy-saving bulbs on the national Christmas tree. Together with his wife Michelle and their daughters Sasha and Malia, he will probably continue to pray mainly where no camera or microphone will disturb their prayers: in the private chapel of the presidential weekend house at Camp David.

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Christina Cherry
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