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Cardinal Cushing, BSO honored JFK with Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ 45 years ago


Cardinal Richard J. Cushing celebrated Mozart’s ‘Requiem Mass in D Minor’ Jan. 19, 1964 in memory of President John F. Kennedy at the South End’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The cardinal is standing with members of the Kennedy family, left to right: Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Joan Bennett Kennedy, and behind, left to right: Kirk LeMoyne, “Lem” Billings, two unidentified men and U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Photo Courtesy of the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Collection

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Even as the nation marks the inauguration of President Barack Obama, many still remember the time 45 years ago -- almost to the day -- when the people of Boston came together to bid farewell to another young and charismatic president, John F. Kennedy.

Mozart’s “Requiem Mass in D Minor” was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Jan. 19, 1964, less than eight weeks after the tragedy in Dallas, by Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Erich Leinsdorf and broadcast on NBC radio and television.

It was the first time Mozart’s “Requiem” had been celebrated as a liturgy in the United States.

The invitations to the solemn pontifical requiem described the service as a civic and religious memorial, which brought together a unique confluence of the city’s religious, cultural and political leaders still roiling in the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination.

Francis X. Bellotti, who was the Commonwealth’s lieutenant governor when he attended the Mass, said the last time he saw the president alive, except for a brief photo opportunity in Washington, was when they sat together at an October 1963 fundraiser at the Commonwealth Amory.

There were 6,000 people at the fundraiser and Bellotti said as he sat with Kevin H. White, who was then the Secretary of the Commonwealth and later a four-term mayor of Boston, he saw Kennedy walk in from the other side of the hall.

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