By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

Cardinal Justin Rigali is asking all Catholics of the Archdiocese to join him in signing the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience,” an unprecedented national document that unites the voices of Catholics with other Christians to give witness to the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions; the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; and the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

“I hope you will join in what I pray will be looked back upon someday as a historic statement that helped decisively to turn the culture towards a true respect for human life, marriage and conscience,” the Cardinal said in a recent letter to the priests of the Archdiocese.

In his Jan. 5 letter, the Cardinal asked the priests to sign the declaration and to bring it to the attention of their parishioners.

“This united witness of Christians across the historic lines of ecclesial difference is urgent at this moment when all three of these great principles are under severe challenge,” continued the Cardinal in his letter to the priests.

Cardinal Rigali was one of a number of Christian clergy, ministry leaders and scholars who released the 4,700-word declaration last November at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The name of the document originates from the earliest draft of the statement, which was presented last September in Manhattan, N.Y., at a meeting of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Evangelical religious leaders. Cardinal Rigali was among the religious leaders convened at that meeting as well.

A letter has been sent to all the bishops of the country inviting them to sign the declaration. All the auxiliary bishops of the Philadelphia Archdiocese are among those who have joined the Cardinal as signatories.

“More than 300,000 people have already signed the Manhattan Declaration, and the number is growing every hour,” said the Cardinal.

“It would constitute an extraordinary statement and act of solidarity with all who labor for true justice, human dignity and the common good,” he added.

The declaration was drafted by Robert George, a Catholic philosopher and professor at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.; Timothy George, a professor and theologian of the Southern Baptist tradition; and Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

The foundational principles the declaration defends “are not the unique preserve of any particular Christian community or of the Christian tradition as a whole,” the Cardinal said at the Washington, D.C., press conference. “They are principles that can be known and honored by men and women of goodwill even apart from spanine revelation. They are principles of right reason and natural law.”

The full declaration, which may be signed online, is available with additional resources and answers to frequently asked questions at and through the archdiocesan web site at