The following eloquent remarks were made by the Rev. Francis X. Pirazzini, pastor of Bethany United Church of Christ, at the community memorial service for the late President John F. Kennedy, at First Evangelical United Brethren Church on Monday. [November 25, 1963] Printed in the Ephrata Review, Thursday Nov. 28, 1963 [Ephrata, PA]
We have gathered in this hour of national tragedy to mourn the death of the 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
A grieving nation pays tribute to a fallen president.
We still find it hard to believe that this young, courageous and dedicated man is dead.
We still find it hard to accept the fact that such violence as we have witnessed in Dallas, Texas, this weekend past, can occur in America.
The circumstances surrounding the president’s death leave us stunned.
But we are strengthened and sustained by the saving knowledge that though lost to loved ones and the the nation he served so devotedly – as soldier, legislator and chief executive – he is not lost to God the Father and that kingdom which knows no end.
We can be deeply thankful for this faith, thankful not alone as we remember the late president, but also as we remember all those who have lived and died in the Lord.
Again we find strength and sustenance in the fact that people of nations around the world share in the grief of the people of the United States of America.
The expressions of sympathy come from everywhere upon the earth with a sincerity that brings tears to the eyes.
The cold war has never experienced such an invasion of warmth.
The death of the president has pierced the walls and curtains between America and other nations to the extent that we are momentarily experiencing a oneness with other peoples that can only be described as heavenly.
In Thailand flags fly at half mast.
In West Berlin thousands lined up to affix their signatures to a sympathetic statement.
In the Far East Buddhist leaders call people to prayer in the temples of that faith.
And so throughout the length and breadth of this planet the human family mourns with a oneness rarely experienced.
Let us pray to God that this oneness abides in great measure long after the remains of John F. Kennedy have been laid to rest.
We must also pray that his death makes a contribution toward the efforts for peace and harmony within our own nation.
God forbid that his blood has been spilled in vain. God forbid that his death and the heartache surrounding it make no contribution toward the removal of the sicknesses and strife in our nation – sicknesses and strife rooted in racism, and in radicalism from the extreme right and the extreme left.
He battled against these three demons and, in a real sense, he died in the fight against them.
This is a time for Americans to recognize that underlying their differences there is a common belief in the equality of all men under God, in the right of freedom for all men under God, and in the democratic process of government.
The world is now witnessing at first hand demonstration of the oneness of the American people in these beliefs as members of both major parties in Congress, representing all parts of this land, profess their desire to support the new president in this critical hour, and refuse to give consideration to partisan concerns.
The world is also witnessing the faith in God which this nation professes.
From President Johnson on down, leader after leader has stated that in such an hour we must pray to God – God who is sovereign, God who is almighty, God who holds in his hands the destinies of men and nations.
Though for many of us this faith has not been clear, and this God more of a subjective than an objective reality, the death of the president has recalled us to the God who came in Jesus Christ some 1900 years ago.
It is significant that President Johnson dated his proclamation for a National Day of Mourning with the words, “in the year of our Lord 1963.”
We may respect the right of non-believers in this nation, respect them to the place where we are willing to remove from certain public institutions the necessity of their acknowledging a faith they do not share, but we do not forget our responsibility to preserve that faith in every way that we can, or this nations shall not endure.
The violence in Dallas this past weekend is indicative of the real sickness and the spiritual poverty which vitiate this nation’s life.
If our profession to be a people “under God” is to become a reality in greater measure, it is not ethical codes that we need but restoration to God through Jesus Christ.
President Kennedy, had he lived, was to close his address on Friday evening with the scriptural truth: “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
It can be noted, then, that John F. Kennedy was a Christian of the Roman Catholic order.
Gone from the Church militant, he is not severed from the Church triumphant.
Man and nations pass away, but the kingdom of God stands forever.
“Neither death nor life. . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
By this faith we live.
By this faith we die.
By this faith we inherit eternity.
May God bless us all.