The latest rumor about President Obama's religion? He always carries a picture of Mary Help of Christians in his wallet. The source of this bizarre rumor? The First Lady, in comments made during a trip to Spain. The First Lady was visiting the home of the Salesian order of priests, and Mary Help of Christians is their patron saint. The First Lady said the first family of the United States has great devotion to the saint.
Maybe this was just a polite comment by a guest to a host. Religion reporter David Gibson shrewdly pointed out, however, that the prayer to Mary Help of Christians is associated with two of the greatest battles in history between Christendom and Islam, both victories by papal forces. The Virgin Mary was first formally given the title of "Help of Christians" by Pope Pius V after the dramatic naval victory over the Turkish forces at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Then in 1683, the forces of Christendom beat back the 200,000 Ottoman Turks from the gates of Vienna. During the fighting, Emperor Leopold I of Austria took refuge in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Pasau.
Is this a new shrewd tactic to counter rumors that the president is Muslim? And yet another reminder that it is a good idea to keep religion out of politics?