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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In remarks delivered at Wednesday morning’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he believes a “terrible parallel” has arisen between the emerging militant secularism of the United States and the communist efforts to remove and replace Christianity in the fabric of European life and identity. 

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Gingrich, a powerful Republican leader from the 1990s and author of the GOP’s 1994 Contract with America, is a relatively recent convert to the Catholic faith.

He credited his conversion to his current wife’s becoming “a devout Catholic,” singing in the choir of the National Basilica, and his discovery of the legacy of John Paul II, and finally Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States.

But Gingrich said it was particularly the soon to be “Blessed” John Paul II, who had a most profound influence on him. The late pope was the subject of his and his wife’s joint documentary “9 Days that Changed the World.”

Gingrich said the message of John Paul II to “be not afraid” is vitally important for the United States, which is emulating “the crisis of secularism in Europe and the growth of a government-favored pagan culture to replace Christianity.”

“The American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites and, as a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media, and judicial class in America,” he said.

Gingrich said the courts have been “especially powerful engines of coerced secularization.”

“From the 1962 school prayer decision on, there has been a decisive break with the essentially religious nature of historic American civilization.”

Gingrich cited the case of the Mojave Desert Cross as evidence of the “fanaticism” of secularists.

“You have to drive three and a half hours out of Los Angeles on Interstate 15 into the desert and turn south on a two lane highway for another eight miles to get to the site of a cross first erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1934 to commemorate those who died in World War One fighting for America,” he said.

But after one National Park Ranger said he was offended because of the cross, the Ninth Circuit court ruled that it was unconstitutional, although the Supreme Court later overruled that decision.

“Almost immediately secular fanatics stole the cross,” he said. “The head of the National Park Service has said he would not erect a replacement. So even when religious freedom wins in court the secular extremists have found new ways to circumvent the Court and impose their anti-religious bigotry.”

Gingrich said the pope’s nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 after his election to the papacy, which was the subject of his and his wife’s documentary, created “a revolution of conscience that transformed Poland and fundamentally reshaped the spiritual and political landscape of the 20th century.”

He said John Paul II showed “freedom and human potential could only be achieved through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Both Czech president Vaclav Havel and Polish president Lech Walesa, Gingrich continued, told him that John Paul II, not U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was “the decisive turning point in the liberation of Eastern Europe.”

Gingrich said that in nine days, the pope had “crisscrossed Poland evangelizing and teaching,” creating a spiritual reawakening from the “everyday grayness of life without hope” which in ten years led to the downfall of the communist regimes in Poland, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union.

The former House Speaker concluded by saying he hoped American youth could take inspiration from the soon to be beatified pope’s heroic example in 1979, and that the documentary “was directly relevant to America today and to our crisis of culture and civilization.”

Gingrich also said that his April 2008 experience of Pope Benedict XVI coming to the National Basilica in Washington, D.C., and hearing the Pope’s message of “Christ our Hope” gave him the confidence to make a conversion and join the Catholic faith.

“For me, the joyful and radiating presence of the Holy Father was a moment of confirmation about the many things I had been thinking and experiencing over the last several years.”

John Paul II, whose papacy lasted from 1978 until his death in 2005, is scheduled to be “beatified” by the Catholic Church on Sunday, the last step before full sainthood or canonization.

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