U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, died Dec. 11 in Darby, Pa., after a battle with leukemia. He was 76. He is pictured on air with Sirius Satellite Radio during the 2007 Catholic Media Convention in New York. CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec

Cardinal Foley great friend to press

By  Catholic News Service
  • December 13, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, longtime Catholic journalist and advocate of Catholic communication, was being fondly remembered after his Dec. 11 death as a friend to the Catholic press around the world.

The cardinal, a Philadelphia native, was residing at Villa St. Joseph in Darby, the home for retired Philadelphia archdiocesan priests, when he died of leukemia at age 76.

“I was pleased that he was able to come home during the final months of his life. No matter where he lived or how he served the Church over the years, he always considered Philadelphia his home,” said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

The archbishop described Cardinal Foley as “a man of great apostolic energy” and said anyone who met him “was immediately aware of his intense love for the Church and his zeal for communicating the Gospel.”

“By the sheer force of his personality, he drew people to the faith and to himself,” he said, adding that the cardinal’s “charisma and gentle spirit will be sorely missed throughout the universal Church.”

The cardinal’s body was to lie in repose for public viewing Dec. 15 at the chapel of St. Martin of Tours at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. His body was also to lie in state Dec. 16 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia prior to the funeral Mass.

Cardinal Foley was known for his many different roles: editor of Philadelphia’s archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times, 1970-1984; head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, 1984 to 2007; and most recently, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, a chivalric organization dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land.

To many, he was known as the Vatican’s “Voice of Christmas” in his role as English-language commentator for the Pope’s midnight Mass for 25 years.

Greg Erlandson, president of the Catholic Press Association, described the cardinal as a “bright, witty, humble man who served his Church faithfully and well in many capacities.” He said the cardinal was an “indefatigable supporter of the Catholic press” who always “remained a journalist at heart, and he believed strongly in the importance of this professional vocation for the life of the Church.”

Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, praised Cardinal Foley’s work as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, saying he “not only encouraged the Catholic press around the world, but he also spearheaded an effort to make the values and teachings of the Catholic Church relevant in the burgeoning fields of public relations, advertising and digital media.”

But he noted that the cardinal should be most remembered “for his strong and abiding witness to the Lord in all that he did. In his innate dignity and good will, he was a genuine prince of the Church, and he will be sorely missed.”

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Television in Toronto, said Cardinal Foley “gave a badly needed human face to the Church at a time when it was most needed.”

The cardinal received numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the Catholic Press Association’s highest prize, the St. Francis de Sales Award. This past summer he received a Gabriel Award for lifetime achievement from the Catholic Academy of Communication Arts Professionals in Pittsburgh where the academy and the CPA were holding their joint Catholic Media Convention.

Tony Spence, director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, said there was “no greater friend or advocate for” CNS than Cardinal Foley, who was always “a champion of professional Church news service and, indeed, of a professional Catholic press.”

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