WASHINGTON -- More than 100 Christian leaders from different backgrounds and different states gathered at the White House Monday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, was encouraged by the gathering.
"I think it's amazing that the most powerful nation on the planet and probably the most important building politically speaking in the world, that we're having a moment where we're not only acknowledging but celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior," Rodriguez said.
It's a tradition started by President Barack Obama four years ago. This year, however, it began with an acknowledgement of death.
The president honored three victims of Sunday's deadly shooting at a Jewish center and retirement home in Kansas, a crime committed on the eve of Passover.
"We have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence," the president admonished.
"So, this Easter week, of course we recognize that there's a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we're also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God," he said.
The president's remarks centered on his recent meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican and included a reading given to him by the pope.
"'Christ's resurrection,' he writes, 'is not an event of the past. It contains a vital power which has permeated this world.' And he adds, 'Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines on this march of living hope,'" the president shared the pontiff's words.
Rev. Rodriguez said, "Christianity in America, unfortunately, is known, especially Bible believing evangelical or orthodox Christianity, for what people oppose, and that's a shame because Christianity is more about love and grace and salvation and redemption."
"And that's the message coming out of the Vatican with the pope, one that the president just affirmed at this Easter prayer breakfast," he added.
Still the president says that as a rule, he tries not to preach to preachers.
"Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff and nudge me when I've said enough," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.