Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, head of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference, has been invited to offer the closing prayer at the upcoming Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
The news was announced by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in an exclusive interview with Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN's news program The World Over.
Cardinal Dolan will give the concluding benediction prayer on August 30, the final night of the GOP convention, where Mitt Romney is slated to accept the presidential nomination for his party.
The cardinal has not endorsed either candidate in the 2012 presidential race.
However, he has been an outspoken critic of a mandate issued by the Obama administration to require employers to offer health insurance plans that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Numerous dioceses, non-profit organization and Catholic-owned businesses have sued the administration, arguing that the mandate violates the First Amendment by forcing them to compromise their deeply held religious convictions.
Obama has also voiced support for abortion and is the first U.S. president to openly advocate a redefinition of marriage to include homosexual couples.
In an Aug. 23 statement, New York archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said that “usual church protocol” requires a request for prayer from the local bishop.
But after contacting Bishop Robert Lynch of Diocese of Saint Petersburg, Fla., “who gave the Cardinal his approval,” Cardinal Dolan accepted the GOP's invitation.
“It was made clear to the convention organizers, however, that the Cardinal was coming only to pray not to endorse, and that he would be willing to accept a similar offer from the Democratic Party as well,” Zwilling added.
“That same sentiment was conveyed to the Democratic National Committee.”
During his interview with Romney, Arroyo said that the presidential candidate “breaks news about what we can expect at the Republican National Convention and reacts to charges by President Obama that he chose Paul Ryan as his running mate to lower his personal tax burden.”
“He also talks about the hot issue of religious liberty, the role of prayer in his life, and how being a bishop in the Mormon Church prepared him for the presidency,” he said.
The interview with Romney will air on EWTN at 8 p.m. EDT on Aug. 23.
Updated on Aug. 23, 2012 at 10:55 a.m. MST. Adds statement from Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling on details surrounding the GOP invite to Cardinal Dolan.