Former Congressman Frank Wolf says the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 is needed more today than when it was signed by President Bill Clinton 20 years ago.
Wolf, author of the act, was presented the A.M. Rosenthal Champion of Religious Liberty Award by Cardinal Dolan at the 20th Anniversary Symposium of the International Religious Freedom Act at the Princeton Club in Manhattan Oct. 23.
“Congressman, you’re a hero for us, and I mean that,” said Cardinal Dolan as he presented the award. “Jesus in the Gospel spoke about the kind of prayer that worked with Him with somebody who was pestering, persistent and patient. That’s been you when it comes to the defense of Christians.
“I don’t mind telling you, Congressman, that even somebody like myself who should have been more sensitive and more aggressive in this, I was very moved by your pestering. So I think this award comes with a lot of love and appreciation and admiration.”
Wolf, who grew up three blocks from Cardinal John O’Connor in southwest Philadelphia, served Virginia’s 10th District for 17 terms, 1981-2015. Wolf, now 79, wrote the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which condemns violations of religious freedom and calls for the United States to work with other governments in promoting religious freedom around the world.
“The law was necessary then, but it’s more necessary now because there is more persecution taking place now than any other time,” Wolf told CNY. “There is so much more to do. That’s why this event (gathering people of all faiths) is so important.
“For the longest time, the corporate church has really not been involved in this issue. That’s why I appreciate Cardinal Dolan. He was always one that when I wrote him, he always responded.”
Wolf hopes people can live without fear of persecution for their faith.
“I think it can be done,” he said. “Do I think it will? I don’t know. That’s really up to the people in the pews. I have 16 grandkids. I hope it does. I pray every night for a revival that this will be an issue. Unfortunately, when I go on college campuses, I don’t see this as a burden with the Generation Zs and millennials. So, unless someone touches these Generation Zs and the millennials, I don’t know how it’s going to come out.”
The daylong symposium, organized by The Anglosphere Society, featured an opening keynote from Wolf as well as morning and afternoon panel discussions. The afternoon panel discussed the current state and future of the International Religious Freedom Act.
Cardinal Dolan arrived at midday to present Wolf with his honor, dedicate a Knights of Columbus icon of persecuted Christians and lead about 100 people at the luncheon in the prayer for persecuted Christians.
Italian artist Fabrizio Diomedi created the Knights of Columbus icon of Mary with an image of Jesus holding a cross over her heart. The prayer, composed by Archbishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, asks God for mercy on His servants who were persecuted for their faith in Him and to have leaders of nations work for peace among all peoples.
“We have traveling icons we send to our state jurisdictions and all around the world. They take them on pilgrimage to various parishes and have prayer services,” said Andrew Walther, vice president of communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus.