Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters
President Joe Biden meets with Republican senators about coronavirus-related federal aid legislation inside the Oval Office at the White House in Washington Feb. 1.


Atlanta Catholics praying for post-inauguration unity

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 5, 2021

ATLANTA—Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta heard prayers said on behalf of President Joe Biden as he became the nation’s second Catholic president Jan. 20.

Lisa Fuller Long, 49, attended her usual Wednesday Spanish-English Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna. Among the prayers at the reservation-required masked Mass were those for the new president and unity in the country, said the longtime parishioner and former religious education teacher.

She said she felt “hope” from the incoming president over issues such as the death penalty and immigration. Long, a mother of four, said she was inspired by the inauguration’s theme of drawing people together and the words of the poet Amanda Gorman.

Long said some voters view the issue of abortion as the sole factor to judge candidates, but it is not how she understands her faith informing her vote.

If we are praying for the unborn, also remember the people recently executed by the Trump administration and COVID victims, when the virus could have been taken care of, Long said.

Biden and John F. Kennedy are the only two Catholics to serve in the nation’s highest elected office. However, Biden does not always publicly support all the church’s teachings, especially on the issue of abortion. Leading up to the election, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated abortion remains its preeminent priority. But his Catholic beliefs are reflected in other issues, from care for the environment and immigration to concern for the poor.

Yet, the inauguration was anything but a celebration for others who proclaim the same faith. The day took on a tone of mourning. A Facebook post by The Georgia Bulletin about Biden and his Catholic faith drew responses showing deep disagreement among believers.

Kate Hall said Inauguration Day was a day of “fervent prayer and unyielding hope” that the president would follow his faith and reconsider Democratic priorities expanding abortion, and targeting religious freedom, among other issues.

Hall, 30, is a member of the Christ the King Cathedral, Atlanta, where she’s served in the pro-life ministries.

The president deserves continuous prayers, but his policy positions make his faith a “sham,” she said. It doesn’t matter if Biden in his interior life considers himself a pious Catholic, if his administration pursues actions contrary to church teaching, said Hall, who works in marketing.

She said among her Catholic friends, she’s seen the division, half  in mourning his election and half supporting it. She said her goal now is “to fight, to preserve and to keep the faith.”

Polls after the election found overall Catholics split their vote almost equally. About two-thirds of the Hispanic Catholic vote favored Biden, according to Associated Press reports.

Teacher Joandra Mendoza watched the inauguration pageantry with her elementary school students. Mendoza, 27, who worships at St. Mary’s Church, Rome, said the new president doesn’t always adhere to a pro-life stance, but the former president “was never the pro-life image we needed to truly make a change at the core of the death culture.”

She found the inauguration message left her “feeling hopeful, sort of like we are pushing a restart button, from four years ago.”

“We can finally and potentially move forward to work for the common good. I’m proud of Biden being Catholic,” said Mendoza. “I’m proud to have a Catholic president!”

Being peacemakers and sowers

Father Gaurav Shroff celebrated Mass on Inauguration Day at Our Lady of Perpetual Hope Church, Carrollton where he is the parochial administrator.

During Mass, prayers for the head of state, and peace and justice were said. Father Shroff said his homily focused on the need for prayer and reconciliation as the new administration is inaugurated.

Father Shroff said the tension surrounding this Catholic president, especially his stance on abortion, is obvious. As a priest, he said he’ll remind parishioners to always follow the model of Jesus to “embrace the role of peacemakers.”

In a recent homily, he reminded parishioners of their primary identity as baptized believers.

“We are not first and foremost liberals or conservative politically, or Democrats or Republicans. We are Christians,” he said. “Am I a peacemaker or a sower of division and hate?”

Shroff also shares a cultural heritage with Vice President Kamala Harris. Both have roots in India. In an email, he said the vice president shows the world an “America that continues its path towards inclusion, and away from a past that is marked by the tragedy of racism.”

While an important milestone, he said his Catholic faith comes first and his “huge gulf” with the new administration tempers any personal enthusiasm.