Wednesday, February 12, 2014

IN HAEC VERBA: Helping Invite Pope Francis to Visit St. Augustine Next Year

Subject: St. Augustine, Florida -- Our Nation's Oldest City's Invitation to Celebrate the 450th Anniversary of First Catholic Mass in North America in 2015

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano

Your Holiness:

On September 8, 1565, some 800 Roman Catholics moved here from Spain, including 50 Africans (both free and slave). Upon landing, those 800 founders of our City were joined by indigenous Native American Indians here in celebrating the very first Roman Catholic Mass in North America – as well as our First Thanksgiving – right here in St. Augustine, Florida.

Next year is our 450th anniversary of this first Mass and first Thanksgiving, and of the founding of our Nation's Oldest European-founded City.

Miraculously, since 1565, St. Augustine has survived wars, famines, epidemics, pirates, genocide, slavery, racial segregation/discrimination, economic depressions, hurricanes and even being burned to the ground several times by the British (who were enraged at Spain's governors here freeing many fleeing British slaves).

Our Nation's Oldest City has formally invited you to visit here and to celebrate Mass here through Bishop Felipe J. Estevez.

But I wanted to extend this personal invitation. I am Jesuit-educated (Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, 1983) and thus was delighted at your election last year, your Holiness.

Your presence here in St. Augustine, Florida will help promote healing, forgiveness and equality. This is a small Southern city, one that is making great progress today in recovering from the scourge of racism and discrimination. Fifty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called St. Augustine “the most lawless” city in America after violent reactions to peaceful demonstrations here, during which our future United Nations Ambassador, Rev. Andrew Young, was beaten, and Dr. King and hundreds of other people were arrested (among them were 15 rabbis, the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history).

What happened here in 1964 helped President Lyndon Johnson to persuade the Senate to enact our 1964 Civil Rights Act. Our City recently opened an ambitious new exhibit, honoring 450 years of African-American history. We now have two civil rights monuments in our Slave Market Square.

We are making progress here for equality and justice. You have already made a huge difference in peoples' lives, Holy Father. We all look forward to your visit here – and to your encouragement here – next year. Please continue to guide us in making our frail planet one in which "justice will roll down like a river, righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24).

Please pray for our progress and healing here to continue, Holy Father.

Thank you for your kind consideration of our City's respectful request through Bishop Estevez.

I have the honor to profess myself with the greatest respect and faith, Your Holiness,
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Post Office Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keeping my fingers crossed he accepts the invitation!