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PROVO -- Nearly 12,000 BYU students welcomed one of America's top Catholic leaders to campus Tuesday. Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the university's weekly forum address.
Cardinal George told the students that the relationship between the two faiths was not always friendly, that Brigham Young and Lawrence Scanlan -- Utah's first Catholic bishop -- would be astonished by today's gathering, but he called Catholics and Latter-day Saints partners in defending religious freedom.
To begin, the audience sang a hymn familiar to both Catholics and Latter-day Saints then recited the Lord's prayer, led by a Catholic professor who teaches at BYU.
- Cardinal Francis George is the first Chicago native to become Archbishop of Chicago.
- Installed in May 1997, he arrived by way of the west coast, where he had spent less than a year as Archbishop of Portland, Oregon and five years as Bishop of Yakima, Washington.
- He is the thirteenth Ordinary for Chicago since its establishment as a diocese in 1843.
Cardinal George spoke of a growing partnership between the faiths.
"In recent years, Catholics and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stood more frequently side by side in the public square to defend human life and dignity," he said.
The Cardinal spoke of unity in the fight against poverty and pornography, and standing for the right to life. He talked of the two faiths defending of religious freedom, which he says is not just freedom of worship.
"At stake is whether the religious word will be heard in the public square," he said.
The two faiths are also united against same-sex marriage. What he most regrets, he said, is the overt opposition.
"This happened in Proposition 8 in California ... [to] respond by thuggery, by quasi-fascist tactics [rather] than the common good, our whole society stands in great jeopardy," Cardinal George said. "Mormons and Catholics take pride on our citizenship as Americans and our legacy of service to the nation."
The students gave Cardinal George a standing ovation.
"I thought today was historic, in that sense: everybody coming together," said student Brady Rice.
Student Victoria Fox said, "A lot of times there's this false animosity between Catholics and Mormons, and I just think the Lord's work is too big for just one people."
Cardinal George also mentioned both President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, and mentioned President Monson's kind remarks about the partnership the two faiths share in humanitarian work.