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Santa Fe’s Papal Connection

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Pope John XXIII

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the death of Pope John XXIII. The Pope was one of the architects of Vatican II in 1962. That year the Catholic Church adopted large scale institutional changes. It was the first time in modern history that all of the bishops gathered to adapt new church principles. Just one year after the momentous reformation of the Catholic Church, Pope John XXIII died of stomach cancer on June 3, 1963.

Solidarity in Grief

The body of Pope John XXIII at the Vatican in 1963. The funeral procession took place at
St. Peter’s Square.

Like the rest of the world, the people of Santa Fe were grieving the loss of their beloved Pope. As the funeral of the leader of the Catholic Church was taking place in Rome, church officials in the City of Holy Faith were preparing to honor the last wishes of Pope John XXIII. In the summer of 1962 Igor Stravinsky performed his composition “Cantata” in Santa Fe at the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. During that time Pope John XXIII invited Stravinsky to conduct his ethereal piece “Mass” at the Vatican in the autumn of 1963. 

From the Vatican to Santa Fe

The spiritual composition never came to fruition at St. Peter’s Basilica due to the untimely death of the Pope on June 3, 1963. Instead, Stravinsky performed “Mass” at the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis on August 18, 1963, dedicating the performance to his friend, Pope John XXIII. Upon conclusion of the performance Stravinsky was awarded the Papal Knighthood of Saint Sylvester, which had been conferred upon him by the Pope, shortly before his death. Not only was that performance dedicated to the Pope, it was also Stravinsky’s last performance in Santa Fe. The friendship of one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and the leader of the Catholic world found closure in Santa Fe, the City of Holy Faith.