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JESUITICA: Confederate priest

bannon_01As he lay in prison after the defeat of his troops in the American Civil War, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, received a small token of comfort from Pope Pius IX. It was a crown of thorns, together with a portrait of the pontiff, as a sign of sympathy and support. The man most likely responsible for bringing Davis so firmly to the Pope’s attention was an Irish Jesuit, Fr John Bannon. Fr Bannon became a prominent leader of the Irish community in St Louis and an indefatigable chaplain during the war. He was sent by Davis to Ireland to urge emigrants not to sign up with the Union, and he used his time in Europe to visit the Pope. He had several long audiences with Pio Nono, during which he pressed – successfully, apparently – the Confederate cause.