“Dear Pope Francis, Archbishop Gregory, and Monsignor Rossi,
As members of the Catholic community, we implore you to stop displaying the United States flag on the bell tower of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
With such an enormous display on the front of the Shrine, visitors could easily assume an equivalence between church and nation. While Catholics are called to actively engage in civic life as citizens, we know that our primary allegiance is to bring about God’s Kin-dom here on earth. There are times, in fact, when our allegiance to Catholicism is in direct opposition to our allegiance to nation, such as when we must protest the taking of innocent life, whether the unborn child, the condemned prisoner, or the victim of United States military bombing missions.
Sadly, our nation’s flag has become a symbol of militarism and American exceptionalism around the world, values that our Catholic faith tradition acknowledges are antithetical to Jesus’ teachings. Since the Shrine attracts visitors from many countries, displaying it suggests that they are not one with their American brother and sister Catholics, but rather “others” in a foreign land. The Shrine needs to be a welcoming refuge, a place of safety and deep belonging for all Catholics.
For these reasons, we ask you to remove the flag permanently from the bell tower. Thank you for your prayerful consideration.”