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At lower left, Old St. Mary Church at 252 S. 4th Street was built in 1763 by Charles Johnson and was altered in 1782 and 1810-11. At right, Old St. Joseph’s Church was the first Catholic church in the city. (photo: By Beyond My Ken - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikicommons; By See below - Wiki Takes Philadelphia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikicommons; Shutterstock)

Philadelphia, the Birthplace of Religious Liberty

By Joseph Pronechen, EWTN News, July 4, 2021

Joseph PronechenPhiladelphia is a city of “firsts.” July 4, 1776, marked the first day of the new United States, when the Declaration of Independence was ratified at Independence Hall and where, a year earlier, George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. This city was also where, in 1887, the U.S. Constitution was signed.

More than half a century earlier, in 1732, when construction began on Independence Hall, another major “first” was taking place 1,584 feet away. It would plant the seeds for many Catholic “firsts” for the city and the new country. Jesuit Father Joseph Greaton, a missionary from Maryland, was building a house in which to celebrate Masses privately, as was only allowed by English law.