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Jim Caviezel, left, and Raymond Arroyo, right.Photos by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images and Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Conde Nast Publications

CINCINNATI, Ohio (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati has pulled archdiocesan sponsorship of the upcoming Cincinnati Men’s Conference, citing concerns with the supposed political “baggage” of the event’s keynote speakers: actor Jim Caviezel and EWTN anchor Raymond Arroyo.

The conference is to be held on April 2 at the Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati (UC) campus and is “intended for all men regardless of denomination or where they are in their faith journey,” according to a conference press release.

Caviezel — who famously portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ — and Arroyo are listed as “headline speakers” at the event, with UC’s football head coach Luke Fickell as an invited speaker. Bishop John Iffert of Covington, Kentucky, was originally listed as a speaker at the event, but, according to the National Catholic Reporter, withdrew his name at an earlier point.

A letter to priests of the diocese on January 3 explained that the archdiocese would “not be sponsoring, promoting, or participating” in the annual conference, established in 1994, supposedly in an effort to distance itself from “attempts by either the right or the left to divide the Catholic Church by political position.”

Explaining, Mike Schafer, Cincinnati’s director of diocesan communication and evangelization, wrote that “[t]his year’s primary speakers, regardless of their otherwise outstanding characteristics, have publicly aligned themselves with divisive political positions and have used even their Catholic platforms to promote those positions.”

“The concern is keeping separate the teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from U.S. politics,” Schafer said. “The utilization of the church platform for political purposes is not what we want to be about.”

However, the conference website clearly states that the event is not political “by any means,” adding that the express goal is “to inspire men to become the best versions of themselves as men of Jesus Christ.” The website emphasizes improving attendees’ lives “as a father, brother, and friend,” as well as providing resources to assist with life’s struggles and to build up one’s faith.

Event organizer and founder of the Catholic Speakers Organization Joe Condit also noted that the event is not political in nature and is focused on the life of faith in a Monday press release, adding that Caviezel and Arroyo are “two of the nation’s most high-profile faithful Catholics speaking to men, inviting them to draw closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

“We’ve been hamstrung by the archdiocese,” he criticized, later apologizing for and retracting his comments, stating that Schnurr has been “nothing but supportive of the men’s conference in the past and plans to be in the future.”

Despite Schafer acknowledging that “the talks will be spiritual, rather than political, in nature,” he ultimately said that “the primary speakers carry significant baggage that we could not ignore. Hence our decision to disassociate the archdiocese with this year’s event.”

Although the archdiocese will not be promoting the event, Archbishop Schnurr has given his permission for the sacraments to be administered and has not actively discouraged men from attending.

LifeSiteNews reached out to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for details on any specific objections to views held by the conference’s speakers, but did not receive a reply before publication.

Last year, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati kowtowed to government COVID inoculation mandates, instructing employees in a December 22 letter that “all parishes, parish schools, Archdiocesan high schools, and other Archdiocesan-owned or affiliated entities” must comply with an order to be “fully vaccinated against COVID-19” or face “weekly testing for COVID-19” and wear a mask to work in order to keep their jobs.

The requirement was put in place in response to the Biden administration’s attempted use of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to force employers with 100 or more employees to mandate the jabs for their workers, which has since been blocked by a federal judge.