On Monday, Cuban-American Episcopalian pastor, Luis Leon, will give the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration on Monday.
Leon heads what is known as the “Church of Presidents,” John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., the church President Obama and his family most often attend.
Leon was asked to give the benediction by the Presidential Inaugural Committee after an anti-gay sermon by Atlanta’s Rev. Louie Giglio caused controversy and Rev. Giglio backed out.
In 1961, Leon, then 12, was one of more than 14,000 children sent to the U.S. from Cuba as part of “Operation Pedro (Peter) Pan”. After his arrival in Miami, Leon was supported by the Episcopal Church and went on to graduate with a Masters in Divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1977.
He is a founding member of both the Washington and Wilmington Interfaith Networks. Leon’s parish is also known for welcoming openly gay members, having non-celibate priests and recently announcing is would bless same-sex partnerships and marriages.
The Benediction will take place in Washington D.C. at the National Mall on Monday, January 21 and will begin at 11:30 a.m.
Another Cuban-American speaking at the inauguration is poet Richard Blanco, who was born in Spain to Cuban parents. Blanco will be the first Hispanic poet, as well as the youngest, to participate in an inauguration ceremony.