The red hat of U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley rests at the foot of his casket during the visitation held before his funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia Dec. 16. Cardinal Foley, who spent more than two decades leading the church's social communications council, died Dec. 11 after a battle with leukemia. CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec

Catholics at Cardinal Foley's funeral consoled for 'death in family'

By  Catholic News Service
  • December 16, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia Catholics who filled the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul Dec. 16 for the funeral Mass of Cardinal John P. Foley were consoled for the "death in the family" and urged to emulate the prelate known for his sense of humor, intellect and strong faith.

In his homily, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, praised the late cardinal for his wit, gentle spirit and love for Jesus and the Catholic Church, which he said was "indeed the passion of John Patrick Foley's life."

He urged Philadelphia Catholics to always remember that Cardinal Foley "considered you his family" and he never stopped talking and bragging about the archdiocese "as much as many of us begged him to," the archbishop quipped.

The cardinal, who spent more than two decades leading the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and later worked for the church in the Middle East, was born in the Philadelphia suburb of Darby Nov. 11, 1935. He was ordained a priest in Philadelphia when he was 26 and died Dec. 11 after a battle with leukemia. He died at the residence of Villa St. Joseph, the home for retired Philadelphia archdiocesan priests in Darby.

"A local church that can give us the likes of such a noble, gentle man, whose message literally went out to the ends of the earth, is a church which can endure and come out ever the stronger in the face of woe and tears," the archbishop said.

Referring to the cardinal's 25-year role as the English-language commentator for the pope's midnight Mass, Archbishop Dolan said although the "Vatican's voice of Christmas may now be silent," Christ's message continues through the example of people such as Cardinal Foley.

He urged the congregation to "praise God's grace and mercy" for Cardinal Foley's response to "God's whisper" to become a priest and also his "yes to God's plan in recent years ... as he gradually bowed to leukemia."

He noted that the cardinal, nicknamed "his Foleyness," exhibited holiness "without being overbearing" and could express his intellect with "warmth and childlikeness" always with a "sparkle in his eye, a smile on his lips, a lit to his laugh and one too many puns."

Archbishop Dolan also said the cardinal's courtesy was "so impeccable" and his thoughtfulness so unfailing "that we might not be surprised to find his photograph in the 'pictionary' for the entry on a 'gentleman.'"

Over the years, Cardinal Foley was known for his many different roles: editor of Philadelphia's archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times, 1970-1984; head of the Vatican's social communications council, 1984 to 2007; and most recently, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, a chivalric organization dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, apostolic administrator of the Baltimore Archdiocese, who was recently appointed pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass.

In opening remarks, he commended Cardinal Foley for his role as priest, bishop and communicator and stressed that although the cardinal was a "communicator through and through" he was also a holy man and a "zealous evangelizer" by word and example.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read a message from Pope Benedict XVI expressing his condolences for the cardinal's death and praying the cardinal's lifelong commitment to the church in media would inspire others to take up this same ministry.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput similarly echoed this plea at the end of the Mass, urging archdiocesan seminarians to consider continuing Cardinal Foley's leadership in this area.

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