It is the 4th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1965.
It is the year smack dab in the middle of the 1960s, and the year was as tumultuous and hopeful and divisive and conciliatory as any year in that decade.
It was the year that the lights went out in New York. Right around rush hour, a power failure spread from Buffalo to Albany to New York City. Thirty million people in 80,000 square miles were left without power for up to 12 hours. It was remarkable for many reasons, perhaps most notably because the crime rate decreased despite security systems being offline, and the city plunged into pitch-black darkness. The communal spirit of the Big Apple was credited with the safety in the city. However, about a decade later, another blackout hit the city, and the communal spirit gave way to violence and looting.
It was another year in the space race, and in those early years, it was all USSR all the time. The Gemini project was up and running but couldn't match the news grabbing accomplishments of those Soviet cosmonauts walking in space and all. Quick note: I know it looks like "Gemin-eye" like the astrological sign. Try calling it "Gemin-eye" in front of a super-space-NASA fanboy. That will make you think twice.
1965 also saw the three marches from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. The march, a 54-mile trek to protest voting inequality, was led by Martin Luther King Jr but was only "successful" on its third try. The first attempt led to police brutality, captured on film, and beamed into millions of homes. The second ended when King and others decided to abort the trip in the face of another police encounter. On the third try, the marchers made it to Montgomery. And they were heard by the President. Lyndon Baines Johnson, the accidental President, had plenty of marks against him. But in 1965, he signed the voting rights act, the civil rights act, and the higher education act. Of course, the year also saw the Vietnam War's escalation and the disastrous operation Rolling Thunder. And the sometimes-uncouth Texan almost caused an international kerfuffle when, on this, the 4th of October in 1965, Pope Paul VI landed at JFK airport becoming the first Pope to ever travel to the Western Hemisphere, let alone the United States.
The Pope hadn't left Rome since 1809, and if you've heard what happened to Early Modern and Medieval Popes, you might understand why. From rival religious leaders to emperors and nuts like Napoleon, the Pope was the ultimate target. "Control Rome, control the world," it was once thought, so the Pope and the Vatican guard stayed put.
However, Pope Paul VI made an unexpected trip to the newly formed United Nations in New York in 1965 to urge peace across the world, especially in Vietnam and between India and Pakistan. Pope Paul also went to St. Patrick's Cathedral, where thousands received him. And of course, you might expect a quick visit between the Pope and the American President would be in order. Except, the Pope was technically a "head of state," and the President could only meet with him if that "state" had diplomatic relations with America. The Vatican did not. That might seem strange, but they didn't precisely because it was seen as a dangerous precedent in commingling the church and state. The Pope and President's people created a workaround with the two just "happening to be" at the Waldorf Astoria, where they met for a casual conversation. Two years later, LBJ would go to the Vatican. The Pope then gave the President a 15th-century oil painting of the Holy Family, and the American President gave the Pope a bronze bust of himself.
Diplomatic relations were opened between the Holy See and the USA in 1984. The previous church/state squabbles were minimized in favor of the Cold War's importance and the new Polish Pope's anti-communist leanings. Today, of course, Papal visits to the Western Hemisphere are a regular occurrence, the current Pope Francis is the first pope from the Western Hemisphere. This hemisphere first welcomed a Pope to its shores on this, the 4th of October, in 1965.
The reading for today comes from the poet Karol Jozef Wojtyla, his “Meditations on the Book of Genesis: at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel." You might know the poet by his later name, the Polish Pope John Paul II
"From dust you came, and to dust you shall return";
What had shape is now shapeless.
What was alive is now dead.
What was beautiful is now the ugliness of decay.
And yet I do not altogether die,
what is indestructible in me remains!…
What is imperishable in me
now stands face to face before Him Who Is!
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 4th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who, for all new members at his church, all receive a candle, casserole dish, and a bronze bust of himself, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.