From The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II, by Bernard Montgomery. Chicago Review Press, 2016. With additional photos.
The black limousine pulled to the curb on Manhattan’s busy Fifth Avenue, outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The back door opened, and out stepped Manuel Quezon, who looked out of place against the New York grit in his bright white suit, scarlet pocket square, and white wingtips. It was just before Low Mass at 8:00 AM, and the Philippine president was trailed by his wife and two young daughters, Maria Aurora, nicknamed Baby, and Zeneida. The party was greeted by Monsignor Joseph F. Flannelly, administrator of the cathedral, and Bishop John F. O’Hara, military delegate to the Catholics in the armed forces.
They were shown inside the neo-Gothic cathedral and seated facing the throne.
Archbishop Francis J. Spellman, who had entered the sanctuary earlier, was kneeling at the prie-dieu at the altar. When the party was seated, he was vested and began Mass.
Monsignor Flannelly extended a greeting to President Quezon.
“It is a very special privilege that I have this morning of welcoming to this Mass in the name of the Most Reverend Archbishop of New York the Hon. Manuel Quezon, President of the Philippines, and his family,” Flannelly said. “Mr. President, I use the word welcome, but perhaps there is no need for it, for this is God’s house, and whether a child of God be a part of the North, South, East, or West, he is always welcome here. And then in addition you have a second claim on this great cathedral of New York, because you are of the Household of the Faith. There is, therefore, added joy in bringing you into this House of God today, because of the fact that you are a member, that you are of the Household of the Faith. And when we think of your people today, the people whom you represent, when we think of them today, stricken as they are, we see the great ray of hope in this fact alone, that you, their leader, are a man of ideals, you their leader are a man of Christian ideals. Today we offer up this Mass for you and with you for your people. We pray for mercy and we pray that mercy may be speedy. And we do thank God today that you and your people have that faith, have those ideals which will draw down from heaven the mercy that we all need.”
Bishop O’Hara, former president of the University of Notre Dame, offered the sermon, then addressed Quezon from the pulpit in closing.
“A few years ago, in a prophetic utterance, Dr. Carlos Romulo stated that the security of a small nation lies in its remaining unnoticed or uncoveted,” the bishop said. “In a world in which for the moment injustice abounds, Dr. Romulo’s beautiful nation could not remain unnoticed. Our own nation had been enriched and inspired by the loyalty and brilliant courage of the citizens of that nation who stood shoulder to shoulder with us on Bataan and Corregidor. And to you, Mr. President, with every American, we endorse and repeat our own President’s pledge, that we will return and will be proud to help you restore liberty to the only Christian nation in the Orient.
“Our task must be fulfilled without hatred. Justice and charity alone can bring peace; justice alone can give us the proper fruits of victory. Hatred can never produce anything but destruction. Only justice that abounds more than that of the Pharisees can bring the peace of God.”
When the service was over, Archbishop Spellman, a man who would hold true to that promise, approached the party and stopped to speak with them. They each kissed his ring, then left through the front doors, and the archbishop then turned and knelt again at the prie-dieu and resumed his prayers.