Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports here that President Barack Obama will give Pope Benedict XVI a stole that was draped around the body of St. John Neumann when the president and Pope meet today.
The stole was “draped around the enshrined body of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia for nearly 20 years,” the Inquirer reported. The saint’s body lies beneath the main altar of the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia.
St. John Neumann was born in 1811 in what is today the Czech Republic and immigrated in 1836 to the United States, where he was ordained as a Redemptorist priest later that year in New York. He served as bishop of Philadelphia from 1852 until his death in 1860, and, in 1977, he became the first naturalized male American citizen to be proclaimed a saint by the Church.
Other gifts that have been presented by previous presidents during papal audiences are mentioned in this Catholic News Service article published yesterday. On his five Vatican visits, Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush presented several gifts to Pope John Paul II and Benedict:
In former U.S. President George W. Bush’s three Vatican visits to Pope John Paul II, he presented an 1849 first edition of an anthology of American poetry, a silver medallion with a hand-painted image of Mary, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Bush met Pope Benedict at the Vatican twice. In 2007, he gave the pope a walking stick into which the Ten Commandments had been carved by a formerly homeless man. And in 2008, the Pope and the president gave each other photographs taken during Pope Benedict’s April 2008 visit to the White House.