Pope Francis blessed a dedication stone for the new Sacred Heart Cathedral on Oct. 14 in St. Peter Square in Rome, a significant symbolic gesture for the future of the Catholic Church in East Tennessee.
The stone was presented to Pope Francis by Bishop Richard F. Stika.
“The Holy Father’s willingness to do this is a great blessing for our diocese. We have been planning this for months and we are grateful to Pope Francis,” Bishop Stika said from Rome.
“Saint Peter was told by Jesus, ‘Upon this rock, I will build my church’, we now have a stone blessed by the successor of St. Peter himself. This is a wonderful day for the Diocese of Knoxville,” Bishop Stika added.
Bishop Stika was accompanied by Cardinal Justin Rigali in presenting the stone for a blessing.
The Bishop and the Holy Father shared a few words and a hug at the end of their conversation.
“Having the dedication stone blessed by the Holy Father is meaningful in that it symbolizes the connection that our Church in East Tennessee has with the Universal Catholic Church,” said Father David Boettner, vicar general of the Diocese of Knoxville and rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“We are not just congregational in nature– we share our communion with Jesus as a Catholic family connected to Rome. That spiritual bond is always there– and this stone, blessed by our Holy Father, reminds us of that,” he added.
The dedication stone, much more portable than the 35,000 lb. cornerstone, was quarried from East Tennessee and will be placed inside the new Sacred Heart Cathedral which is in the early stages of construction on Northshore Drive in Knoxville.