Pope Benedict XVI
Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks [as prepared] on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States:
“This week we welcome his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, for his first visit to America as Pope.
“Here in Washington, Pope Benedict will meet the President at the White House, marking only the second time in America’s history that a pontiff has visited the White House. He will offer Mass at the newly opened Nationals Park, and deliver an address at Catholic University.
“Pope Benedict will then travel to New York, where he will address the United Nations, visit Ground Zero, site of the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks, and say Mass at Yankee Stadium.
“During his visit, the pope will also champion a brotherhood of faith between the religions, by meeting with leaders from the Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and other faiths.
“The pope’s visit observes some important anniversaries. Wednesday, April 16, will be his 81st birthday, and Saturday, the 19th, will mark the third anniversary of his election as pope.
“His visit also coincides with the 200th anniversary of four of the oldest dioceses in the United States, one of which was established in my own state of Kentucky. Two hundred years ago this month, Pope Pius VII carved the Diocese of Bardstown from one of the oldest dioceses in the New World.
“The territory of the Bardstown Diocese once covered a giant swath of land, including what are now the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and half of Arkansas.
“The Bardstown Diocese was established alongside the dioceses of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Its seat was eventually moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and made an archdiocese. But its place in the history of American Catholicism continues to be a point of pride across Kentucky.
“Kentuckians celebrate this bicentennial throughout the year at the St. Thomas Church, considered the ‘Cradle of Catholicism’ in the bluegrass state and still located in Bardstown. A two-story log house that stands on St. Thomas property is the oldest structure related to the Catholic faith in our region of the United States.
“Built in 1795 by Thomas and Ann Howard, the property was willed to the church by Mr. Howard in 1810, and it became the first home of the St. Thomas Seminary, the first seminary west of the Alleghenies. It later served as the residence of Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget, first bishop of the Bardstown Diocese.
“Bishop Flaget and others who worked to establish the Bardstown Diocese were pioneers of the land as well as of the spirit. Kentucky was the western frontier of the young United States at that time, and frontier life posed many hardships.
“Yet Bishop Flaget successfully made his work and presence felt throughout the diocese, and the St. Thomas Church still cites his influence today, two centuries later.
“The resolve and faith displayed by the founders of that Bardstown Diocese are the same resolve and faith that have enabled so many other Catholic missionaries to attract more than one billion adherents to the Catholic faith.
“As the Bishop of Rome, the Pope’s leadership inspires millions with confidence that mankind can find God’s will amidst the chaos of this world.
“Yet, for all the obvious affection people show him, Pope Benedict would be the first to recognize that he is merely ‘a simple, humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.’
“We are honored by his visit. And in Bardstown, Washington or elsewhere, we welcome Pope Benedict VXI to bring his labors to America.”