St. Augustine hopes for Pope to visit | News

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St. Augustine hopes for Pope to visit

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- St. Augustine is working toward inviting the Pope to its 450th birthday celebration in 2015.

St. Augustine touts to be the birthplace of Christianity, specifically Catholicism, in North America.

City leaders believe it's fitting to invite Pope Francis to the old town for the 45th celebration.

Mayor Joseph Boles and the Catholic Church are working together to properly invite Pope Francis.

Father Tom Willis, Rector at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Augustine, said, "the protocol is simple."

The request requires President Obama to invite the Pope. First Coast News has learned the Bishop of the St. Augustine Diocese has already sent a letter to Rome, requesting that while in the U.S., he'd consider doing something to commemorate St. Augustine's 450th anniversary.

Mayor Boles is also drafting a letter that will go to an archbishop in Washington D.C.

"He takes it and moves it up the channels," Boles noted.

The mayor plans to present the letter to the City Commission Monday.

Willis said, "The Vatican has already indicated Pope Francis will be coming to the U.S. in September of 2015."

"That happens to be our celebration week of 450 years," Boles noted.

"And that's why the wheels started turning," Willis smiled.

Boles explained, "The reason St. Augustine would be a natural pick for the Pope is because it's the birthplace of Christianity in the new world, specifically Catholicism."

While many believe St. Augustine may not be able to handle the crowds if the pope celebrated a mass in town, Boles and Willis hope maybe he would consider stopping for a visit. The Pope could visit places such as the Cathedral Basilica, the St. Francis House homeless shelter, and the Mission of Nombre de Dios which is where city founder Pedro Menendez celebrated mass upon landing in 1565.

"St. Augustine is home to America's first catholic parish," Willis noted, "and this church is where that parish community continues to meet."

Nevertheless, security, traffic and planning would be a huge undertaking

"There might be some strange things about a little town like St. Augustine," Willis smiled. "But I think we can handle it."

Boles agreed, "We don't think there's anything we can't handle."


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