John F. Kennedy’s assassination was “the day the earth stood still” for the Catholic community, said one of the church’s most beloved and outspoken cardinals, Timothy Dolan.
He made the remarks on his podcast, broadcast courtesy of the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, speaking about the late president, who was a Catholic, and how his death affected the church.
And he said that even though some who weren’t alive on that fateful day may wonder why the nation still stops to reflect and mourn, 50 years later, the sentiment to the Catholic Church is natural: Church members feel they lost their only president.
“You almost hesitate to say it because now, it almost seems a cliché,” the cardinal said. “[But] it was an earth-changing experience, no doubt about it, I think for all of America.”
Cardinal Dolan said he was a boy of 13, in eighth grade, when he heard the news.
Back then, his school dismissed students to go home for lunch. But he said he stayed at the school to host a bake sale that day, along with many of his fellow classmates. They learned the news when lunch time ended and a seventh-grade girl came back from her home, after she ate: “All of a sudden, [she] came in crying … saying the president had been shot,” he said.
“We were all devastated and with that … the whole school went to church,” he remembered. And the rest of the afternoon, and through the weekend, was “seared into my memory,” the cardinal said, on his podcast, referring to “the going home, the crying, the sobbing.”
“It still chokes me up,” he said. And for many in the Catholic Church, the decades may have passed, but the feeling is still intense.
“[JFK’s election] was a moment of intense Catholic pride,” he said, saying it was probably “analogous to the election of Obama” and the feelings experienced in black communities. “When [JFK] was shot, that was for a lot of us the day the earth stood still. … It was a death in the family.”
• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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