(Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
The Basilica of St. John in Des Moines, Iowa, canceled a May 16 presentation by Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, about Pope John Paul II, according to a local media report.
Basilica officials canceled the event because the former speaker of the house is considering a run for the presidency and they believed his speech could have been considered a conflict of interest, according to the Des Moines Register.
Last year, he went to Poland to co-produce a documentary about the pope called “Nine Days that Changed the World.” Gingrich converted to Catholicism in 2009 after spending most of his life as a Southern Baptist.
He has been attending Mass over the past 15 years to watch his wife sing as a choir member of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and he says that, combined with several other factors, led to his gradual conversion to Catholicism.
“I am often asked when I chose to become Catholic,” Gingrich said in an article entitled “Why I Became Catholic” in the National Catholic Register. “However, it is more truthful to say that over the course of several years I gradually became Catholic and then decided one day to accept the faith I had already come to embrace.”
In the article, Gingrich said he visited Rome with his wife in 2005, which made an impact on him, and he pointed to two books that influenced him as well.
“At the same time, I was being influenced by several books I was reading, including George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral, about the crisis of secularism in Europe, and his book The Final Revolution, about the role of Christianity in freeing Eastern Europe from an atheistic dictatorship.”
“Nine Days that Changed the World” flowed from Gingrich’s conversion, especially given that Callista’s father’s family is from Poland. The documentary is about Pope John Paul II’s nine-day trip in June of 1979 to Poland, which at the time was a Communist-ruled country.
“He re-engaged the Poles with their Polish culture,” Callista said last month on the Fox News television program On the Record. “They have a very rich heritage and he made them feel good about being Polish again. He also reconnected them to the Catholic Church. And through doing these two things, he gave them the courage to stand up and fight the Soviet dictatorship.”
The first 2012 Republican Party presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday in South Carolina. Gingrich planned to attend, but a Fox News blog says he has indicated he will not have the Federal Election Commission paperwork filed in time.