Biden Gives Pope Holy Trinity Church Vestment With a Papal Connection

Last Friday, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden presented Pope Francis several White House gifts at the Vatican, while he was in Rome for the G20 Summit.

A coin Biden gave the pope got the most attention but the White House gift of a priestly garment has a connection to another pope.

The challenge coin given to Francis was especially dear to Biden as it contained a reference to his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015 and was a National Guardsman for the state of Delaware. Such a coin is a military tradition and is presented to  “leaders and warriors,” noted the president who then told the pontiff, “You are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met. And with your permission, I’d like to be able to give you a coin. It has the U.S. seal on the front. I know my son would want me to give it to you. On the back of it, I have the state of Delaware, the 261st Unit my son served with.”

Of note to Georgetowners was a gift to the pope that the White House coordinated with Holy Trinity Church on 36th Street, the oldest Catholic parish in D.C. and run by the Jesuits. As the church is considered Biden’s parish in the nation’s capital and Francis a Jesuit, the gift seems most appropriate along with its ties to the papacy.

The liturgical vestment in question — a chasuble worn by a priest when celebrating Mass — was in the Holy Trinity collection and given to the White House, which placed it in a frame made of wood from the White House as well as a piece of marble from an old Holy Trinity baptistry.

.As Rev. Kevin Gillepsie, S.J., pastor of Holy Trinity, tells it, the garment made in 1936 may well have been worn by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli — the future Pope Pius XII — when he visited a Jesuit novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, during his U.S. trip. It was likely ordered by Genevieve Brady, who along with her deceased husband Nicholas were builders of the novitiate and generous benefactors of the Jesuits. Mrs. Brady hosted the cardinal at the novitiate and her Long Island home, known as Inisfada.

In 1936, Pacelli was Cardinal Secretary of State of the Roman Catholic Church and the highest ranking Catholic official ever to visit America. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Brady had been made a papal duke and duchess.

How the vestment for a future pope came to become part of the Holy Trinity Church collection remains unknown. Still, Gillespie suspects Rev. Thomas Gavigan, S.J., who once worked at the novitiate and then became pastor of Holy Trinity during the 1960s, had something to do with it.


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