Trump praises Catholics, NY ‘grit’ during pandemic in virtual Al Smith speech

President Trump will praise the generosity of Catholics and the “grit” and “courage” of New Yorkers who battled the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in taped remarks to the Archdiocese of New York’s 75th Al Smith fundraising event.

The annual fundraising dinner for Catholic charities will be a virtual event Thursday for the first time because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Democratic nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, confirmed late Thursday afternoon that he would also deliver remarks at the event, which is led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

The custom is for the presidential candidates to poke a little fun at each other as well as themselves and leave the campaign at the door — as Trump and Hillary Clinton did during the 2016 dinner.

But this year’s event comes at a grim time, with the pandemic taking the lives of more than 200,000 Americans — with New York registering the highest death toll.

Trump notes the solemn occasion, in excerpts of his taped speech released in advance, while stressing better days lie ahead.

“When the virus came in from China, we saw New Yorkers respond with the same grit and tenacity, courage, and selflessness that have always defined this city that we love so much,” native New Yorker Trump says in excerpts of his remarks released by the White House..

“The Catholic community and the men and women of the New York Archdiocese answered the call. You showed the world the essence of the Catholic faith. As president, I want to thank the Catholic community for the magnificent generosity you showed in America’s hour of need.”

The president exuded optimism — vowing the US will “defeat the virus” in memory of “all of those who lost a loved one.”

As he seeks re-election, Trump noted that he nominated “brilliant” Catholic federal appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the US Supreme Court “to protect your God-given rights.”

He also said he has championed the expansion of “school choice” in support of Catholic education.

Trump emphasized that one of his top priorities is defending “religious liberty and the cherished role of faith and faith-based organizations in our national life.”

“Few institutions in history,” he says, “have done more for New York, more for America, or more for people of the world than the Catholic Church.

“Now more than ever, our nation needs a renewal of the values that this organization promotes and that the Catholic faithful live out each and every day in peace.

“As president, I will always support you in your effort to serve our fellow citizens and to lift up all humanity. I will protect the Catholic Church, and I will defend the rights of religious believers of every race, religion, color, and creed.”

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