IRONDALE, AL, October 5, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Benedict XVI has awarded EWTN foundress, Mother Mary Angelica, and Deacon Bill Steltemeier, Chairman of EWTN's Board of Governors, the Cross of Honor for distinguished service to the Church. The medal, officially known as “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” (literally “For the Church and the Pope”), is the highest honor that the Pope can bestow upon laity and religious.
The acknowledgement of Mother Angelica's work by the Pope is highly significant in light of high profile criticism that the EWTN foundress has sustained over her unwavering fidelity to the faith. Mother Angelica had to endure crushing criticism and even attempts to take over her station by various left-leaning Catholic bishops in the United States.
As Catholic League President Bill Donohue wrote in a 2005 review of Raymond Arroyo’s nationally best-selling book on Mother Angelica, some bishops actively fought EWTN at its inception. “Indeed, the bishops tried to outdo her by launching their own effort, the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America (CTNA). It was clear from the beginning that Mother Angelica was seen as a threat: EWTN had a traditional orientation and CTNA took a modernist stance. EWTN won. CTNA collapsed.”
Donohue added: “Mother Angelica did not take kindly to those clerics who questioned her authority to showcase some bishops, but not others. ‘I happen to own the network,’ she instructed. When told that this would not be forever, she let loose: ‘I'll blow the damn thing up before you get your hands on it.’”
From its beginning the station has placed a strong emphasis on explaining and defending Catholic moral principles related to life and family. It has extensively covered the annual Washington March for Life, featured numerous pro-life leaders and broadcasted exceptionally hard-hitting talks by EWTN regulars such as Fr. John Corapi, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of HLI and Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.
During elections EWTN has followed the direction of the Popes and faithful bishops and emphasized that the top priority for Catholics during elections must be the candidates' stands on abortion and marriage and the family and that candidates who are strongly pro-abortion or who support same-sex 'marriage' cannot be supported regardless of their stands on other issues. This is one of many reasons which has caused the station to be intensely disliked by the liberal Catholic establishment that has for many years pushed a more liberal 'social justice' priority list of voting issues.
Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham conferred the awards in a brief ceremony following Sunday benediction at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.
“The Holy Father's recognition of Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill Steltemeier is a much-deserved honor. It acknowledges the tremendous faith, hard work and incredible sacrifices that each of them have made throughout the years in founding and building up the Network,” said EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “Their recognition is also a great honor for EWTN and is a clear sign of the importance of the Network's mission for the Church and the Pope. We are grateful to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and to Bishop Baker for this honor.”
Mother Mary Angelica, 86, is a Poor Clare Nun of Perpetual Adoration. She came to Alabama in 1961 to found Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale. In 1981, she began Eternal Word Television Network in a garage on the monastery property. In 1999, Mother Angelica relocated the Monastery to the grounds of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. She continues to reside there with her community of Nuns.
Deacon R. William Steltemeier, 80, was a successful Nashville attorney who left his law practice to join Mother Angelica with her fledgling television network. He served as EWTN's President for many years and continues to serve as Chairman of the Network's Board of Governors.
EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 28th year, is available in over 150 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. With its direct broadcast satellite television and radio services, AM & FM radio networks, worldwide short-wave radio station, Internet website https://www.ewtn.com/ and publishing arm, EWTN, is the largest religious media network in the world.”