NEWS ORLEANS, LA - If there's one thing Monsignor Foley of the New Orleans diocese can't take, it's telling his parishioners at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis Cathedral, located in the French Quarter, that they can no longer pray during mass.
But Foley, rector of the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States which serves nearly 3,000 souls, has been doing just that since last week. That is when he was officially notified that FEMA determined that the cathedral's use of the federal funding for repairs of the damage caused by hurricane Katrina violates the separation of church and state.
Instead of a communal prayer, the Federal Agency said parishioners should observe a moment of silence.
Monsignor Foley says though he is grateful for the federal funds without which his great church would not be usable, he hopes a meeting on Thursday with FEMA's officials will settle the controversy.
"What I'm hoping for is that our people get with their people and they say, 'This is all a big mistake, go back and tell your people they can pray," Foley stated. "We'll see where we stand. If not and the officials are really serious about this, we must begin a fund raiser in earnest to repay the FEMA funds so once again the Administration will allow our people the sanctity of public prayer. We pray for this and that reason will prevail, unfotunately we cannot do it publicly though."