NEW YORK (AP) — Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan will give the benediction at the Republican National Convention on the night Mitt Romney accepts the presidential nomination. The cardinal's spokesman said the appearance was not an endorsement.
Dolan is the New York archbishop and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Romney announced Dolan's appearance in an interview with Raymond Arroyo's "The World Over Live" on EWTN Catholic network.
The archdiocese is one of more than 40 Catholic groups suing President Barack Obama over his mandate that employers provide health insurance that includes free birth control as a preventive service. The rule exempts houses of worship but includes faith-affiliated employers such as hospitals, charities and colleges.
Obama promised to change the requirement so that insurance companies and not faith-affiliated employers would pay for the coverage. But details have not been worked out and many religious leaders have said the compromise appears to be unworkable.
Romney has been pressing the issue in an ad and on the campaign trail. He told EWTN that any legislation he proposed would be evaluated according to "its impact on religious freedom."
Romney, who would be the first Mormon nominee on a major party ticket, said his service as a lay pastor with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Boston area helped him "understand the very real concerns and pains people have, the struggles that they have," according to interview excerpts EWTN released.
Dolan's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said the cardinal told both the Republican and Democratic parties that he would accept any invitation to offer a prayer at their conventions.
"It's not an endorsement," Zwilling said of the RNC benediction. "It's as a priest going to pray."
The EWTN interview with Romney will air at 8 p.m. EDT on Thursday. The four-day GOP convention begins Monday in Tampa, Fla.