The following statement will appear on the Cardinal’s blog this evening
Cardinal Sean’s statement on JFK
Today, the feast of Saint Cecilia, we mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas. It was a time of great sorrow for the whole world.
It was the time of the Cold War and his assassination not only instilled a sense of great sorrow and dismay, but also fear, because there was a feeling that our country’s enemies had done this. The president’s assassination was followed by the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. It was a period of great social upheaval, uncertainty and fear that traumatized the entire population.
Among older Americans, who remember that time so vividly, it is often said that people never forget where they were when they heard the news.
I was a seminarian at St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen Seminary when the news came. In those days we were not allowed to have television sets in our monasteries, but I still recall that for the president’s funeral they brought in a television set and we watched Cardinal Cushing celebrate the Mass. Of course, once the Mass was finished, the television disappeared as quickly as it came. The Funeral Mass, of course, was at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where I celebrated my first public Mass as well as countless other Masses, weddings and baptisms during the years I served there. On the floor of the Cathedral, in front of the altar, there is an inscription marking the spot where the president’s body was laid and it served as a constant reminder of that day.
Bishop Hannan, who later became the Archbishop of New Orleans, was a very close friend of the Kennedy family and was the one who delivered the eulogy at the funeral. He concluded with President Kennedy’s clarion call to serve others during his inaugural address: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. …With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”
Certainly, growing up a Catholic in a time that we never thought there would be a Catholic president, we all rejoiced at his election and everyone was deeply moved by his death. Particularly because he was such a young man with young family, it was made all the more poignant.
It is with sadness that we look back at President Kennedy’s assassination, because we all wonder what America would have been like had he not been killed.