Catholic Church Holds Annual Red Mass For Government Leaders

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Updated By Garin Flowers:
March 20, 2013

Lifelong Catholic Peggy Clark wouldn't miss this day for anything.

She's a part of hundreds that attended a special church service honoring state politicians.

"We do a whole lot of praying for them," Clark said.

In fact, she attends church almost every day, making this day even more special.

"It is to show the unity of our church with those of all the legislature, no matter what faith they are," she said.

This is all a part of the historical red mass. Catholic bishops from all over Florida travel to Tallahassee and have a service at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More.

"It's the opportunity for the legislative, executive and judicial branches to come together and the bishops of Florida pray over them," said Sheila Hopkins with the Florida Catholic Conference.

The red mass celebration has been passed down 800 years. Priests and judges wore red robes to signify their willingness to defend the truth, even at the cost of shedding blood.

Wednesday's ceremony makes it the 38th annual in Tallahassee.

"The world we live in is ever changing and issues change, but we still need God to help us and that's why we come together to pray," Hopkins said.

As for Clark, she has a message for the state's leaders.

"Vote your heart, vote your belief and forget about the party," she said.

Press Release: Florida Catholic Conference

38th Annual Red Mass to be celebrated March 20 in Tallahassee Catholic Mass participants pray for divine inspiration and guidance for those serving in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and for members of the legal profession in Florida.

Who: Catholic bishops of Florida, members of the cabinet and executive branch, legislators, judges, attorneys, state agency officials and members of the community. Congregants are Catholic and non-Catholic. Lectors / Readers State Senator David Simmons, District 10, Altamonte Springs State Representative Jeanette M. Nuñez, District 119, Miami Homilist Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee Bishops of Florida / Mass Celebrants Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami; Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg; Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice (will not be present at Mass due to health reasons); Bishop John G. Noonan of Orlando; Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of St. Augustine; and Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

When: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. A reception immediately follows.

Where: Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, 900 W. Tennessee Street, Tallahassee

Background: The Red Mass of the Holy Spirit, a nearly 800 year old tradition, originated in France in the 13th century as a service in which God was called upon to guide lawyers and judges in their pursuit of justice. The tradition soon spread to England where, during the reign of King Edward I, the entire Bench and Bar would mark the opening of each term of court by attending a Mass together.

In those services, the priests, as well as the judges of the High Court, wore red robes to signify their willingness to defend the truth inspired by the Holy Spirit, even at the cost of shedding one's blood. Thus, the celebration became popularly known as the "Red Mass."

Red Masses are celebrated throughout Florida and the United States at various times during the year. In Tallahassee, the Red Mass is scheduled annually during Catholic Days at the Capitol.

The Florida Catholic Conference is an agency of the Catholic Bishops of Florida. It speaks for the Church in matters of public policy and serves as liaison to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The archbishop and bishops of the seven (arch)dioceses in Florida constitute its board of directors.

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