With a backdrop of world terrorism, suffering immigrants and martyred missionaries across the globe, Fox News analyst Father Jonathan Morris will focus instead on the hope and salvation that awaits mankind in his keynote address to the Catholic Charities "Journey of Hope Luncheon" next Tuesday, April 12 at the Landers Center in Southaven.
The luncheon, sponsored by Catholic Charities of Jackson, is expected to draw hundreds of Catholics from across Mississippi. Additionally, an audience including a large number of Protestants and individuals of other faiths and denomination, are expected to attend.
The luncheon begins at noon and will last one hour. Landers Center is located at 4560 Venture Drive in Southaven.
One of the largest gathering of Roman Catholics and spiritual lay leaders to convene in North Mississippi in recent history will feature Morris, who was a religious commentator for CNN before joining Fox News. The New York priest also served as a theological adviser for producer Mel Gibson in the epic motion picture, "The Passion of the Christ."
Fresh from a Sirius radio interview, Morris shared a portion of his message, which will primarily be about "hope" in a troubled world, not despair and gloom.
"Above all, the message that I want to deliver is that we have great reason to hope, to be joyful and to be positive about the future in the United States of America," said Morris, who is pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the Bronx. "First and foremost as Christians, we know from the story that God has the solution. Politics, while it is important, can take on a disproportional role in our lives."
In the same breath, Morris said that political discourse can highlight a dilemma faced by the faithful, and Morris said discussion can be good and instructive.
"One of the reasons for great optimism at the political level is the debate on abortion," Morris said, adding that although the issue is fraught with misunderstanding and confusion, the discussion will force people of all faiths to examine fundamental questions concerning the sanctity of human life. "The older generation in both parties is suffering great confusion on the issue of abortion."
Morris said he was surprised and somewhat heartened to hear Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton utter the word "person" in talking about an unborn child. Morris said it is unlikely she would have uttered such a proclamation years ago. That utterance notwithstanding, Morris said the whole agenda of pro-choice advocates, among Clinton's staunchest supporters, still has to be reckoned with.
"Then we heard Donald Trump talk and he was very confused," Morris said. "He was trying to bring together his beliefs of many years on abortion as a right with his newfound views."
Another major topic in the news is immigration. The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has become a champion of the dispossessed, arguing in favor of showing compassion for individuals fleeing war-torn nations.
"It is important for us to understand the ethical morals and principles behind immigration," Morris said.
Morris added while there is a "natural right" to emigrate or seek asylum for a person's safety and security, there is no natural right to immigrate to any one particular country.
"It's a politician's right to regulate immigration at levels that are sustainable," Morris said. "Politicians have to responsibly come up with the right formula to protect the homeland and also help those who are fleeing from harm."
Christian missionaries are also facing persecution as never before, according to Morris.
"I think we would be ignorant as well as culpable if we didn't profess publicly that genocide is occurring in parts of Asia and Africa," Morris said of missionaries who have come under attack. "It's genocide, a wiping out of people because of their religion."
Dialogue with the Muslim religion is important, although the concept of instituting a caliphate worldwide, called for by some radical Muslims, is an apostate religious view, according to Morris.
Morris said tolerance and compassion are key tenets of Christianity and individual Muslims must not be persecuted because of their faith.
"It's important to realize that there are a lot of good, honest, God-fearing Muslim people," Morris said.
Morris has hopes that even the Muslim faithful will one day recognize true salvation. Morris said he believes their prayers are sincere.
"Anyone who humbly and honestly gets down on his knees and reaches out with their soul to their Maker, their God will hear and answer," Morris said.
While the Catholic Church is growing worldwide, here at home, statistics suggest the number of the faithful filling pews is dwindling in some major American cities.
Morris prays for a resurgence of the faithful.
"Wherever there are high levels of comfort and luxury, it's easy to start thinking we are self-sufficient without any recourse to God," Morris said.
A "Meet and Greet" Sponsorship Gathering for Father Jonathan Morris is also planned from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. the night before the luncheon on Monday, April 11 at Wedgewood Country Club. Tickets to that event are $50 per person.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252