Pope Francis Gives Catholic Church’s Highest Layperson Honor to Top Pro-Life Attorney

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 15, 2017   |   12:23PM   |   Washington, DC

Pope Francis has honored Alliance Defending Freedom Founder Alan Sears and his wife, Paula, with the highest honor that the pope can bestow upon laypeople by knighting them into the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The pope bestows the honor upon both Catholic and non-Catholic men and women for having shown, “by their sustained service, extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and His Church” in their communities and countries.

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, bishop of Phoenix, will formally convey the honor on behalf of Pope Francis to Alan and Paula Sears at an investiture service at St. Bernadette Parish in Scottsdale on June 29. The public is welcome either to attend or to watch the service via live stream.

“Paula and I are more than humbled by this honor,” said Alan Sears. “Christians and people of goodwill everywhere should have the freedom to live what they believe and to follow their conscience, what James Madison called ‘the most sacred of all property.’ We have counted it a privilege, with God’s grace, to do our part to protect these freedoms. Pope Francis repeatedly has spoken strongly about religious liberty, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life, so it is a distinct honor to be recognized by him for our work in those areas.”

“The world benefits when the Gospel is freely preached and lived, especially in the present day,” Paula Sears added. “We are blessed to have had the opportunity to support and encourage those who have sacrificially shared that message and their lives with others. We are very humbled and grateful to Pope Francis for this honor and additionally thank him for his leadership in these areas.”

“I am personally grateful for Alan and Paula’s 23 years of sacrificial service to ADF and, therefore, also grateful to Pope Francis for bestowing them with this incredible honor,” said ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris. “It’s amazing to be part of an organization that would not be where it is today without their tireless efforts and service to the body of Christ and beyond.”

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Olmsted said that the papal honor extended to Alan and Paula “is a well-deserved recognition of their many years of defending religious freedom, standing up for the true meaning of marriage and family life, defending the dignity and right to life of every human person, and faithfully living their lay vocation in their home, their parish, and the public square.”

In May, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview presented Alan with the William Wilberforce Award, “established to honor those who show courage and perseverance in the face of injustice and opposition.” In addition, last fall, Politico named Alan to its Politico 50, a “guide to the thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016.”

“It’s a time when the leadership of men and women of character is vital. Alan’s life is a model of that kind of leadership,” said Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput, in a recent video shown at the Wilberforce Award ceremony. “But Alan and I both know that no married man of faith ever achieves anything great without the strength and encouragement of a wife—a wife who matches him in virtue. Alan is the man he is because Paula is the woman she is.”