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Pope Francis to speak from lectern Lincoln used for Gettysburg Address

The lectern that President Abraham Lincoln used to deliver the Gettysburg Address (CNS)

When Pope Francis gives a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on September 26 during his visit to the US, he will use the same lectern that President Abraham Lincoln used when he gave his Gettysburg Address

Robert Ciaruffoli, president of the World Meeting of Families, made the announcement at a news conference at the Union League of Philadelphia last week.

The lectern, which is privately owned, is on long-term loan to the Union League as part of its Abraham Lincoln Foundation exhibit. The league, a private club, was founded in 1862 specifically to support Lincoln’s policies.

“We are both honoured and grateful for the generosity of the Abraham Lincoln Foundation in offering to the Holy Father the opportunity to speak from the lectern from which Abraham Lincoln delivered probably the most important American speech,” Ciaruffoli said.

Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and in his speech he is expected to address the issues of immigration and freedom of religion, Ciaruffoli said, adding, “Just as Lincoln addressed the most important issues of his time from this lectern, so too will Pope Francis.”

Lincoln was scheduled to speak at the dedication of the Union League of Philadelphia but was assassinated shortly before the event. He did visit Independence Hall twice — first in 1848 when he attended the national convention of the Whig Party, and secondly on February 22, 1860, while on his way to Washington for his inauguration, according to John Meko, the league’s executive director of foundations.

It was hours before that event that Lincoln received news of an assassination plot against him when his train was supposed to stop in Baltimore. The plot was thwarted.

In his remarks, according to Meko, Lincoln spoke of the founding principles of the nation proclaimed at Independence Hall, adding, “I would rather be assassinated on this spot rather than give up these principles.”

Later, in 1865, Lincoln’s body lay in state at Independence Hall as one stop on the journey back to Springfield, Illinois, for burial.

Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba and the US will take place from September 19-27. For the full itinerary go here.