Saying goodbye: Religious community reacts to cardinal’s death

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As news of Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin’s death Thursday (Nov. 14) reached people of all faiths, there was an outpouring of sentiment celebrating the life of the Archbishop of Chicago and his work within and beyond the Catholic Roman Church. Here is a sampling of comments: Pope John Paul […]

c. 1996 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) As news of Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin’s death Thursday (Nov. 14) reached people of all faiths, there was an outpouring of sentiment celebrating the life of the Archbishop of Chicago and his work within and beyond the Catholic Roman Church. Here is a sampling of comments:

Pope John Paul II (in a telegram to the Archdiocese of Chicago):”I am confident that the example of the cardinal’s devoted service as priest in his native Charleston, as archbishop of Cincinnati and archbishop of Chicago, his untiring work as general secretary and president of the bishops’ conference, his generous cooperation with the Holy See, as well as his witness of dignity and hope in the face of the mystery of suffering and death will inspire all who knew him to ever greater fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel of our Redemption.” _____

Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston:”Cardinal Joseph Bernardin died as he lived: a man of deep faith in the Lord, an enduring hope in the power of the Lord’s death and resurrection, and a generous hearted love which saw the Lord in everyone. …

Not limiting his vision to the life of the Church, however, he attempted to translate the hope borne of faith in a way that all persons of goodwill might understand.

His leadership in the U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Peace is an illustration of this. So, too, is the moving and eloquent letter which he addressed to the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court just one week ago. …

How characteristic of this generous hearted man that at a time when most of us would choose privacy he chose to share even his experience of death in the hope that it might serve our nation in creating a better society.” _____

Rabbi A. James Rudin, national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee and a columnist for Religion News Service:”The world has lost a prince. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s death has robbed us of one of this century’s greatest spiritual leaders. Throughout his remarkable career, Cardinal Bernardin taught us how to live our lives in faith and integrity. Above all, Cardinal Bernardin has taught us what it means to be a faithful child of the God he loved so well. The American Jewish Committee remembers with special appreciation the cardinal’s extraordinary efforts to forge a new and positive relationship between Roman Catholics and Jews. Now death has come to the cardinal, not as an enemy, but as a friend, and he is at peace with his God.” _____

Linda Pieczynski, president, Call to Action:”Jesus taught us, `Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.’ Today, though we mourn the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, we rejoice that he is at peace in the arms of the God he loved so much and devoted his entire life to. His legacy as a peacemaker and reconciler are his gifts to us along with the incredible example he set by showing us that death is not to be feared but a friend leading to our ultimate meeting with our Creator.

The Catholic Church in Chicago has been blessed by his years with us and we are thankful that in his last year he has spoken so eloquently about the need for us to be loving and civil to each other, even in our disagreements.

We hope that the Catholic community will continue the work of reconciliation he began this year as a sign of the respect we have for him and to honor his memory.” _____

Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president, National Conference of Catholic Bishops:”The peace within his soul, which does indeed surpass understanding, remained with him to the end. His acceptance of death not as an enemy but as a friend could only come from the deep faith of a person who knows that our destiny is not for this life only. The pastoral devotion with which he directed the ministry of his final days to consoling those afflicted with the same remorseless scourge of cancer as he was himself reflected a generosity of soul which will surely bring from the Lord that most touching of invitations, `Come. You have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.'” _____

The Rev. Thomas H. Economus, president, The LINKUP, Inc.:”Victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse along with the people of Chicago have lost a true friend and brother. Cardinal Bernardin demonstrated grace, compassion and dignity in his bold approach to this very troubling issue. He was the first bishop to meet with survivors and to implement a review board to deal with the issue. He befriended our movement and supported its work and efforts. We will miss him greatly.” _____

Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, N.J.:”The Church has lost a good and holy priest. Our nation has lost an eloquent and courageous religious leader, and I, among so many others, have lost a dear friend. I have no doubt that Joseph Bernardin has gained the peace of God’s kingdom and the reward of everlasting life with the God whom he loved so very much and served so very well.” _____

Cardinal John O’Connor of New York:”He was a fierce battler for the cause of human life, including the unborn and those who are vulnerable at any stage of their existence. During the final months before his death, he became particularly powerful as a witness to life.

In many ways, he reminded me of my beloved predecessor, Terence Cardinal Cooke, who suffered with great dignity and nobility. Cardinal Bernardin was a loving, gentle man who led by moral persuasion and personal example, never by force or fear.

The church will miss him. The country will miss him. I will miss him.” _____

Leonard DeFiore, president, National Catholic Educational Association:”The Cardinal’s vision and constant care for the education of our youth will be one of his lasting legacies to the Church and to the nation.

In his dying, Cardinal Bernardin took full advantage of what educators call the `teachable moment.’ He used his own suffering to teach compassion; he countered calumny with forgiveness and, through his death, made heaven a more attractive place for the legions who look forward to being with him again.” _____

The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary, National Council of Churches:”He was our longtime friend, counselor and partner on the journey of Christian Unity.

His gentleness and strength, his gifts of scholarship and wise counsel, his openness and loving service to all enriched our lives. … We praise God for this saintly man who taught us how to live and how to die in Christian faith.” _____

Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., President, University of Dayton:”The Catholic Church has lost one of the greatest pastoral leaders in the history of the American church. Cardinal Bernardin was a leader who could bring both the head and the heart to his deliberations on important public moral issues. He can best be described as a servant-leader who brought people together in a conversation dedicated to a search for a truth that was common to all of humanity and, at the same time, faithful to the teachings of the church _ whether the issues were war and peace, capital punishment or abortion.”Even when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, he brought Catholics together on issues that divided them. In terms of his greatest contributions to American Catholicism, I believe he will be best remembered for his seamless approach to life issues and the way he helped steer the church to an anti-nuclear stance. We must carry on his work.”


Donate to Support Independent Journalism!

Donate Now!