Donald Trump’s Inaugural weekend will include an interfaith prayer service at Washington’s National Cathedral, a customary event but complicated this year by anger over the president-elect’s rhetoric on Muslims, immigrants and others.
The service was announced Wednesday by the presidential inaugural committee, which provided no details on the ceremony or participants. A similar 2013 event for President Barack Obama’s second-term Inaugural included about two dozen religious leaders, including three Muslims, along with representatives of Judaism, evangelical Christianity, mainline Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity and Sikhism.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, has been helping plan the Jan. 21 service and will participate, said his spokeswoman, Chieko Noguchi. She said the organizing “is still in its early stages.”
Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde, who oversees the cathedral, declined an interview request Wednesday. A cathedral spokesman released a brief statement saying the service “is a moment for our next president to pause and contemplate the incredible responsibility he has been entrusted with and to listen as the faith community offers prayers for the office of the president.” In an interview Tuesday on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” Budde said “all faiths will be represented at his (Trump’s) request and we will pray for the good of our nation.”
The cathedral, part of the Episcopal Church, a liberal Protestant group, has hosted presidential funerals and national prayers of mourning, including a ceremony with evangelist Billy Graham three days after the Sept. 11 attacks. The cathedral also has been deeply involved in interfaith outreach, including hosting Friday communal prayer for Muslims two years ago — a first for the worship space.
The cathedral staff and other religious leaders will work with the inaugural committee on the event, but the committee “can’t dictate everything about it because it is, in fact, an Episcopal cathedral, so they have to negotiate” over who is invited and what they say during the ceremony, according to Charles Haynes of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute in Washington.
Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, which meets weekly, said the decision about religious events related to the inaugural would be made by the president-elect’s aides, not the advisory group. Moore said he has been to Trump Tower in New York more than once to discuss policy and plans to attend the inauguration and the cathedral service. “It’s going to be reconciliatory,” said Moore, a public relations executive who leads The KAIROS Company. He said the ceremony will underscore “the president-elect’s commitment to having a presidency for all Americans.”
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