The New Vision

Obama, Romney invited to annual Al Smith dinner

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NEW YORK (CNS) — The Al Smith dinner in New York brings people of faith together for “an evening of friendship, civility and patriotism to help those in need,” not to endorse either candidate running for the U.S. presidency, said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.
The purpose of the dinner is to show the nation and the Catholic Church “at our best,” he said in an Aug. 14 posting on his blog titled “The Gospel in the Digital Age.”
“An invitation to the Al Smith dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the church,” the cardinal said. “It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.”
President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent, have accepted the invitation to be the keynote speakers at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner Oct. 18 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
In presidential election years, in a tradition of bipartisanship, the foundation’s board has usually invited the presidential candidates of the two major parties to speak.
Cardinal Dolan used his blog to respond to criticism of the invitation to Obama, who supports legal abortion. He said he also has received complaints that Romney was invited.
The dinner “has never been without controversy. … This year is surely no exception: I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama — and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Gov. Romney,” he said.
“The objections are somewhat heightened this year, since the Catholic community in the United States has rightly expressed vigorous criticism of the president’s support of the abortion license, and his approval of mandates which radically intruded upon freedom of religion,” Cardinal Dolan said.
“We bishops, including yours truly, have been unrelenting in our opposition to these issues, and will continue to be,” he said.
But he pointed out that those who started the Smith dinner started 67 years ago were people who “believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.”
The annual dinner and the Smith foundation have raised millions to provide support for the poor.

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