NEW YORK — As the global coronavirus pandemic continues to lead to a cancellation of events, organizers of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast have cancelled this year’s scheduled gathering scheduled for March 30.

“Out of concern for our guests and speakers, the 16th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has been cancelled,” said a statement posted to the website. “Within a few days, each registered guest will receive an email with additional information, including refund options. No additional information is available at this time. Please continue to pray for all affected by the Coronavirus.”

The National Catholic Prayer breakfast takes place each spring and brings together more than 1,000 Catholic leaders to the nation’s capital for a morning of prayer and speeches.

The event was founded in 2004 as a response to Saint Pope John Paul II’s call for “a new evangelization.”

While the event is billed a non-partisan gathering, over the years, speakers have been predominantly conservative Catholics — among them former Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Ambassador for Religious Liberty Sam Brownback, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former Senator Rick Santorum, Vice President Mike Pence, and former President George W. Bush during four years of his presidency.

Attorney General William Barr and recently retired Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia were set to headline this year’s gathering.

In announcing this year’s line-up, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast event chairman, Mark Randall, praised both men as examples of Catholic witness in the public square.

“Although these men have been called to very different vocations, they share a profound courage to live out their Catholic faith in the public square. In so doing, they have furthered the New Evangelization called for by Pope Saint John Paul II — which is so needed today to overcome the culture of death,” he said in a statement last month.

Although it was never announced, there was also much speculation that President Donald Trump would make an appearance in an election year effort to shore up support among conservative Catholics.

At least year’s gathering, Mulvaney — who earlier this month was ousted from his position — praised the president and said the principles of faith are “alive and well and well-respected” within the White House and “are driving many of our policies.”

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The presence of faith “makes us a better administration and makes us a better country,” he told the crowd of over 1,400 individuals, adding that the manner in which the president speaks about faith “probably hasn’t been articulated in the Oval Office in way too long.”

This year’s selection of Barr, one of the most prominent Catholics in the Trump administration, who was set to receive the Christifideles Laici Award for service to the Church, drew criticism by some Catholics who launched an online petition opposing his role in reinstating the federal death penalty and his involvement in prosecuting an aid worker who left water for migrants at the southern border.

“Mr. Attorney General, we prayerfully call on you to reconsider your allegiance to President Trump in light of the teachings of our faith,” the letter stated.

“We ask you to reverse your Department’s support of the federal death penalty. We ask you to respect the religious liberty of Catholics and those of other faiths who aid migrants and refugees,” it said. “We call on you to resist Administration policies that embolden proponents of white nationalism and white supremacy. We call on you to apply the rule of law with an integrity informed by our faith.”

This year’s prayer breakfast was meant to be the 16th occasion for the gathering.

Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 

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