Cardinal Shehan and the repose of JFK’s ‘great soul’
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, his wife, Jacqueline, and their children, Caroline and John Jr., are seen on Easter Sunday in 1963, months before the president's Nov. 22 assasination. (CNS photo/Reuters)
When Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago today in Dallas, Baltimore’s Cardinal Lawrence Shehan was far from home attending meetings of the Second Vatican Council in Rome. That didn't stop him from feeling the impact of one of the most shocking moments of the 20th century.
A Nov. 22, 1963, statement released on behalf of Cardinal Shehan asked
for prayers for the eternal repose of President Kennedy, whom the cardinal said died “like the bravest of soldiers in the pursuit of his duties.” The cardinal also asked for prayers at every Mass, and
“to solemnize the day of his burial with a Requiem Mass for the repose of
his great soul.”
the bitterness that poisoned our nation a century ago after the death
of President Lincoln, let us pray for the strength to resist the
inevitable temptation to hurl reckless charges of culpability against
any segment of our people,” the statement said. “At his inauguration,
President Kennedy summoned each of us to ask what we might do for our
country. Our best tribute to him now is to determine, more resolutely
than ever, that our nation will remain wise and united in the difficult
In the cardinal’s absence in Baltimore, Auxiliary Bishop T. Austin Murphy sent a Western Union Telegram to the White House expressing “sincere sympathy” to Mrs. John F. Kennedy Nov. 22, 1963.
“Masses and prayers are being offered in all the churches of the Archdiocese of Baltimore for the repose of the soul of President Kennedy(,) for you, your children and all the members of your family,” the 3:21 p.m. telegram said in capital letters.
The first lady acknowledged the acts of kindness of Baltimore Catholics with a card sent to the cardinal that said simply, “Mrs. Kennedy is deeply appreciative of your sympathy and grateful for your thoughtfulness.”
The first lady’s card and Bishop Murphy’s telegram are held in the archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
(The card immediately above is courtesy Associated Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The photo of Cardinal Shehan is a CR file photo)
11/22/2013 10:08:38 AM
By George Matysek