Priests are generally not considered celebrity figures to mainstream audiences. When's the last time you opened People magazine to find the latest whereabouts of Father John C. Chapel? And while priests don't pray to be of in-the-media status, Father Jonathan Morris found it to be his calling. Today, as a regular Fox News Channel contributor, Father Morris travels the world providing coverage of religious strife and offering moral and ethical commentary on the regular news. Now living in Rome, Father Morris will speak on the meaning of separation of church and state on April 22 in Tulsa. He makes the stop after accompanying the Pope on his trip to Washington D.C. and New York from April 15-20, and before he begins his book tour in Los Angeles on April 24.
The 33-year-old priest from Cleveland, Ohio decided to enter the priesthood while in college, where he studied business administration and eventually tacked on degrees in humanities, philosophy and theology. Ordained in 2002, Father Jonathan instantly went to work. A camera was always in close quarters. From 2002 to 2004, he served as the theological advisor for Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ and advised the marketing of the film to audiences in the United States.
The following year, with the death of Pope John Paul II, Father Morris provided news analysis for CNN, Fox News Channel, the BBC and other news outlets. His popularity with domestic and international viewers stretched across the globe. From Rome to Paris to Washington D.C. to Venezuela to Germany, Father Morris has appealed to both Christians the non-Christians with his focus on preserving the values of freedom, tolerance, respect for law and human rights. He has traveled several times to the Middle East to report on the absence of these values in a sadistic area of the world. In response to the discovery of the murdered Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho on March 13 in Iraq, Father Morris told UTW that he considers the archbishop "a present day martyr of love, and a sign of contradiction for anyone who would dare abuse the name of God by carrying out religiously-motivated violence."
"Christians living in Iraq live under constant fear of violence and there are no simple solutions to the instability in Iraq, as we all now know. No military strategy by itself will ever be enough. Now is not the time to abandon the Iraqi people," added Father Morris.
Tulsan Bill Paddock, who has a background in radio and TV management, is responsible for bringing Father Morris to the city. Paddock, who calls himself a Fox News junkie, grew fond of the young reporter by watching Morris every Sunday morning and was impressed by his sharpness.
"So, I called his agent and asked if we could bring him to Tulsa to speak about moral issues," said Paddock, who is not Catholic. "They told me he was reporting every day during his visit to the U.S. with the Pope in April and was then off to promote his first book. With these events adding to Father Morris' credence, we figured we could just squeeze him in for a stop in Tulsa."
Paddock chose the theme for April's speech from a handful of topics Father Morris often speaks about.
"Separation of church and state is something that hits left and right politically and I figured it would have more mass appeal," said Paddock.
Father Morris commented that the theme is part of a bigger picture of what he calls "the battle for the American soul."
"The many new opportunities for young people today come with great moral challenges. One of these is the phenomenon of a very small group of very loud activists who would like to see the name and voice of God wiped completely out of the public square," he explained.
"Contrary to a long and venerable tradition of religion in public life in the United States, these men and women propose that religious arguments are necessarily bigoted arguments and therefore should be allowed only in the home or in the church. Now that's bigotry, and it is spreading like wildfire."
He said the solution is "not to enter into squabbles, but to build a culture of truth and life."
Morris' book, The Promise: God's Purpose and Plan for When Life Hurts, will be available at the speech in April. In fact, with the purchase of 10 tickets, you receive an autographed copy.
Father Jonathan will speak Tuesday, April 22, at 7pm in the Cascia Hall Performing Arts Center, 2520 S. Yorktown Ave. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by calling 595-5592 or visiting www.iccea.com. The event will benefit Catholic Charities and is sponsored by Pimeaux Kia.
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