VATICAN CITY (WATE) – It was a big moment for the Knoxville Diocese Thursday as Pope Francis blessed a dedication stone for the new cathedral.
“We wanted to have this cornerstone blessed by the pope and it only weighed 19 pounds, so I put it in my carry-on and brought it to Rome where he blessed it yesterday,” Bishop Richard Stikia said with a smile.
Vatican photographers captured images of the exact moment Pope Francis blessed this piece of Knoxville.
“He put his hand on it for about a minute and then I gave him a big hug,” Stika said. “He said, ‘Pray for me,’ and I said, ‘Please pray for the diocese.’ ”
The stone will be in the entrance of the new cathedral, forever marking this event. After the blessing, the bishop also took the stone to the tombs of other saints and popes, saying it now been touched by as many as six leaders of the Universal Catholic Church.
“It just shows the relationship in the Universal Church with our small diocese. We belong to something greater than ourselves.”
The bishop said he was in Rome for a wedding and decided he would just take the stone with him. He said he was worried about getting through security and possibly breaking it, but it all worked out just fine. The stone came from a local parishioner who has a farm with Tennessee marble on the property.