Because of the death & funeral of Pope John & the recent ceremonies for the coronation of the new pontiff, Giovanni Battista Cardinal Montini of Milan—now Pope Paul VI— JFK offered to cancel the trip to Italy altogether. The Italian government had looked forward to welcoming President Kennedy; they insisted that he come.
As Pope Paul’s coronation was to take place on the Sunday President Kennedy’s plane was due to land in Italy, it was decided Air Force Once would be diverted to Milan for a brief respite before going on to Rome the following day, a Monday (July 2), for the official events. The pope met the first Catholic president of the U S on July 2, 1963 at the Vatican. Pope Paul’s papacy had begun just several days earlier on June 21, but it wasn’t the first time the pope had met JFK.
In his speech, the pope recalled first meeting him almost 25 years earlier when the then-20- year-old accompanied his parents to the Vatican for the coronation of Pope Pius XII March 12, 1939. President Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., was U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain at the time and was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to act as his special representative at the papal coronation.
While President Kennedy’s 1963 visit marked just the third time a U.S. chief executive visited the pope while still in office, there had been another historic meeting a year earlier: when his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy visited Pope John XXIII March 11, 1962.
It was dubbed “one of the longest private audiences” Pope John ever granted.
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