Although Pope Francis will be new to the United States, visiting the country this autumn for the first time during his papacy, he will be well-seasoned in American history.
Officially announced this week, the Holy Father will speak at the same lectern as did President Abraham Lincoln when he delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863. The Holy Father will give his own historic speech at Independence Hall during the World Meeting of Families in September, using Lincoln's lectern courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League of Philadelphia.
"We are both honored and grateful for the generosity of the Abraham Lincoln Foundation in offering the Holy Father the opportunity to speak from The Gettysburg Lecturn at Independence Hall," announced Robert Ciaruffoli, president of the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
"It's simple beauty and humble role in one of American history's most important moments reflect, in many ways, Pope Francis' own worldview," Ciaruffoli continued.
The Gettysburg Address was given by Lincoln from the simple wooden lectern on Nov. 19, 1863, four months after the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln dedicated part of the grounds of Gettysburg as a cemetary during his speech, solemnly remembering one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War.
Pope Francis, 152 years later, will mark another historic occasion by addressing the World Meeting of Families from the same wooden stand at Independence Hall.
"The Gettysburg Lectern is one of the most historic artifacts in American history and we are privileged to have Pope Francis use it to deliver his address in Philadelphia," stated John Meko, the executive director of the Union League.
“With Independence Hall, the most historic building in America, selected as an official site for the Papal visit in June, it seemed only appropriate to provide the Holy Father with the opportunity to deliver his message to the world from the lectern at which President Lincoln gave the most famous speech in American history,” Meko continued.
The Abraham Lincoln Foundation was founded in 1996 to preserve historical documents and artifacts obtained by the Union League of Philadelphia. The Heritage Center of the Union League of Philadelphia is now home to the Gettysburg Lectern, where it is on a long-term loan from a private collector. At the end of August, the historic wooden stand will be removed from public display so that conservators can prepare it for Pope Francis' address at the World Meeting of Families.
The World Meeting of Families takes place every three years and is co-sponsored this year by the Holy See's Pontifical Council and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It will be held for the first time in the United States this fall, with the official theme "Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive."
Pope Francis will use the Gettysburg Lecturn to speak about religious liberty and immigration on Sept. 26, 2015, during his two-day apostolic journey in Philadelphia.
"To have this man of faith who speaks for peace, love and religious freedom around the world, use President Lincoln's Gettysburg Lecturn to address all those who will come to see him in Philadelphia, will be a deeply moving moment for all," Ciaruffoli stated.