June 24, 2015
His Holiness, Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
Dear Pope Francis,
I am a novelist, poet, playwright, songwriter and professor living in the United States. My vitae is at IshmaelReed.org. This is what I know about Saint Andrew.
Saint Andrew was martyred by crucifixion at Patras in Achaea in Greece. Because St. Andrew deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross on which Christ had been crucified, he asked to be tied to a crux decussata or an X-shaped cross. Thus the Saltire became known as Saint Andrew’s cross.
Your Holiness, it baffles me that the symbol of this martyr is being used on a flag that was the banner for one of the cruelest regimes in history, the Confederate States of America, under which families were broken up, thousands tortured and murdered and subjected to day-to-day humiliations. The kind of medical experiments that were practiced on the victims of the Nazis were used on these slaves. For those who kept slaves under imprisonment, these human beings were little more than property.
Pope Francis, you are very much admired here in the United States. Last weekend, a very highly placed opinion maker called you “a radical” and a presidential candidate said that you were a “miracle.”
Your Holiness, you can do much to weigh in on the side of those who are mourning the victims of racial hatred like those killed in Emanuel A.M.E. Church last week. Their supporters and members believe that removing the Confederate flag from the capitol of South Carolina–this symbol of oppression–would bring them some peace. But the same flag flies in other southern states. Doesn’t the fact that Saint Andrew’s cross appears on this evil symbol serve as an insult to the Catholic church which lead?
There are many examples of Confederate regime’s brutality, but nothing shows its satanic leanings than an illustration that appeared in Harper’s Weekly for November 1862. It depicts members of the Confederate army on horseback, whipping black men women and children walking on foot as they are being returned to slavery.
Pope Francis, the Confederate flag has nothing to do with Saint Andrew, a martyred Christian.
It is up to you to denounce such an association.
Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.