When Pope Francis addresses a crowd of thousands at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall next month, he will speak from the same lectern that slain U.S. President Abraham Lincoln used to deliver the Gettysburg Address, officials said on Friday.
The pope’s address at Independence Hall will come on the second-to-last day of his first trip as Pontiff to the United States, after he will have spoken to the U.S. Congress and United Nations and before an open-air Sunday mass that is expected to draw up to 2 million attendees.
Lincoln’s famous 272-word address, given on Nov. 19, 1863 after the bloodiest battle of the U.S. Civil War is famed as a celebration of U.S. values and a defense of the conflict that ended slavery in the then-young nation.
“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,” said John Meko, executive director of the Foundations of the Union League, which agreed to lend the podium for the visit.
The Union and Confederate armies took an estimated 51,000 casualties, including soldiers killed, wounded and captured, during the Battle of Gettysburg, located about 130 miles west of Philadelphia.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Sandra Maler)