Beneath state’s clouds, hope

Beneath those clouds hanging over the Illinois Capitol in Springfield and the political scene in Chicago, two true sources of hope are found this month. In Springfield, one week before the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the first ever privately funded Nativity scene to be displayed in the Capitol Building was dedicated Dec. 2 in the East Corridor, adjacent to the Rotunda. Within days, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White had the four-foot high manger scene with Fontanini figurines of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus moved to the very center of the Rotunda, immediately next to the governor’s “holiday tree.”

It will remain there until Dec. 28, with special noon hour concerts planned around it.

In Chicago, meanwhile, the first Catholic Mass to be celebrated on Federal Plaza was scheduled to take place on Friday, Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The outdoor Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Gustavo-Garcia-Siller, MSpS, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Located next to the Federal Plaza is the presidential transition office of President-elect Barack Obama.

Both the Springfield display and the Chicago Mass are the result of efforts of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society and its Religion in the Public Square project, which provides legal assistance to religious groups to express their faith in our nation’s public squares.

The Springfield Nativity Scene Committee, supported by the Thomas More Society, maintains that the right to display religious symbols or icons in the public square is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said it would not challenge the display in court.

“We encourage citizens to pursue a Nativity scene display in the public forum in their own communities,” said committee member Arlene Sawicki.

Certainly, in the midst of the breaking scandal involving the state’s highest office, both the Nativity scene in Springfield and the Mass in Chicago will inspire prayer for all public servants. As Bob Gilligan of the Catholic Conference of Illinois says in our story on page one, most are “good and decent people called to serve for the right reasons,” but all face temptations.

We recommend prayers for our state government at the Advent wreaths and Nativity scenes in our homes and parishes as well. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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