WASHINGTON (RNS)--About 3,800 elected officials and religious leadersfrom around the globe gathered Thursday for the 48th annualNational Prayer Breakfast, listening to political and religious speakers--including President Clinton and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.--call for spiritual tolerance and unity.

In a departure from previous years' events that have featuredChristian keynoters, Lieberman--an Orthodox Jew-- deliveredthe keynote address at the annual meeting of politicians, clergy and laypeople to discuss issues of faith and spirituality.

He told the crowd that "what unites us is much greater than whatdivides us," noting that as a Jew he had been apprehensive aboutattending Senate prayer breakfasts when first invited years ago.

"Today, I can tell you that the weekly prayer breakfasts have becomethe time in my hectic life in the Senate when I feel most at home, mosttied to a community," he told breakfast attendees in the WashingtonHilton ballroom. "We are at those breakfasts not as senators, not asRepublicans or Democrats, or liberals or conservatives, not evenparticularly as Christians or Jews. We are there as men and women offaith linked by a bond that transcends all the other descriptors anddividers--our shared love of God."

Lieberman suggested that individuals could strengthen theircommunities "by talking in the spirit of this prayer breakfast--open,generous and mutually respectful," and encouraged his listeners totranslate faith into action.

"We know in the end we will be judged by our behavior," he said."Turning faith into action is particularly appropriate in thismillennial year, whose significance will be determined not by turning apage on our calendars at home or work, but by turning a page on thecalendar of our hearts and deeds."

President Clinton--accompanied by First Lady Hillary RodhamClinton--continued the theme of tolerance and unity, citing the Koran,the Torah and the Bible as he urged the crowd to consider what it meansto love one's neighbor in an increasingly global society. He bemoanedthe world's "inability to love our closest neighbors as ourselves ifthey look or worship differently from the rest of us."

"The world is growing smaller and more interdependent," he said."The point I would like to make to you today is, as time and spacecontract, the wisdom of the human heart must expand. We must be able tolove our neighbors and accept our essential oneness."

Donald McLaughlin, regional director of advancement for PrisonFellowship Ministries in Granger, Ind., praised the speakers' call foran inclusive society.

"We do live in a global society, and the differences between usdon't amount to a hill of beans," he said. "God doesn't see differences--and it's great to see leaders taking a moment to realize that."

Also during the event, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the papalambassador to the United States, read a statement from Pope John Paul IIcalling for the United States to commit itself to the anti-abortioncause.

"This is the great civil rights issue of our time, and the worldlooks to the United States for leadership in cherishing every human lifeand in providing legal protection for all members of the humancommunity, but especially those who are weakest and most vulnerable,"the pontiff said.

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, delivered theevent's closing prayer on behalf of his father, who was recuperatingfrom elective surgery he had on Jan. 27 to remove a benign sinus polyp.Also, the elder Graham's wife, Ruth, is recuperating from hipreplacement surgery.

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