I attended the funeral Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica for the late, much- loved and respected Slovak Cardinal Jozef Tomko. I have been in Rome long enough, including the years I worked at the Vatican, to see many of the great men who loved and tirelessly served the Church and the Roman Curia for many years go on to their eternal reward.

Cardinals such as Roger Etchegaray, Bernardin Gantin and Jean-Louis Tauran, to name only two. I’d have to name even John Joseph Wright who died in August 1979, the first American ever to head a congregation in the Roman Curia, whose secretary I was for four years.

As you will see in my slideshow of photos, I was just rows behind Pope Francis who was seated in an armchair. He had been brought into the basilica in his wheelchair through what is known as the Prayer Door and Diplomat’s Door, the same door I used earlier to enter the basilica. This entrance to St. Peter’s is just across a small square from the Santa Marta residence.

When I arrived at 10:30, a half hour before Mass, the funeral car was at the basilica entrance, guarded by two Swiss Guards and two Vatican gendarmes and a Gentleman of His Holiness.

I was brought up very close to the front of the left section of pews at the Altar of the Chair. Part of the right side of pews is reserved for members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Vatican. A choir had been singing at the altar and a bishop was leading prayers as I sat down.

Dozens of cardinals and bishops, including prelates from Eastern rites, processed into the sanctuary for the funeral mass. Cardinal Tomko’s casket was in front of the altar. He will be buried in his native Slovakia.

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Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at Mass and gave a perfectly beautiful homily, describing the cardinal to a tee. I was very moved as I thought of the times I had met Cardinal Tomko over the years, most of them very brief encounters, often just a casual meeting as I was out on an errand he was out on a walk.

One meeting does stand out. I was at a reception in 1995, shortly before my departure on the Vatican delegation to Beijing for the U.S. conference on Women. As we chatted, I told the cardinal that I was on the Vatican delegation to China and very excited about the upcoming trip. He took my hand and said, with a broad smile on his face, “Signora, if you need someone to carry your luggage, you know where to find me!”

I knew he yearned to get to China but he well knew conditions were not optimal for the visit of such a high-ranking person from the Vatican. He wished me well – the entire delegation, in fact – and said I should rest assured he would pray daily for us.

I had two meetings at the end of Mass.

Polish Dominican Fr. Wojciech Giertych, theologian of the Papal Household, after speaking to two Missionaries of Charity, spotted me and came over to shake my hand, saying “You are with EWTN, right? I just had a great interview with your Fr. Mitch Pacwa!” We spoke briefly after that and then I went to greet some nuns.

I wanted to thank the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul for their loving care of Cardinal Tomko for years. Seems a number of people had the same idea. I did speak with one of the sisters and both of us got a little emotional at the same time. I thanked her and she gave me a big hug and asked what my name was. I said Joan, Giovanna in Italian. She said that was her name as well and gave me another hug!

It was a sad but also a beautiful morning. I was in the basilica for about two and half hours, attending Mass, then saying a rosary while waiting to go to confession.

I always feel so peaceful in St. Peter’s. There is something that is so calming for me as I sit at a favorite chapel or say a rosary or go to Mass or confession or just ponder beauty. The majesty of this basilica is no longer intimidating, it is inspiring.


Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re celebrated the funeral Mass for the late Cardinal Jozef Tomko, and recalled the faithful and fruitful service to the Church and the Pope by the former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

By Sophie Peeters (vaticannews)

Pope Francis, on Thursday morning, participated privately at the funeral Mass of the late Cardinal Jozef Tomko, celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He presided over the funeral rites of Commendatio and Valedictio for the late Slovakian Cardinal. (Vatican photo)

Cardinal Jozef Tomko died on August 8 in his apartment in Rome at the age of 98. He was created a cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul II and was the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, presided over the Mass.

A life of service
In his homily, Cardinal Re recalled that the long and intense life of Cardinal Tomko was consecrated to the service of God and of his brothers and sisters and dedicated to service in the Roman Curia.

This service, Cardinal Re continued, was carried out with a great balance in judgments, calmness, good sense, amiability and the finesse of his traits, always with the sense of the dedication to the “call to serve.”

After being unable to return to the archdiocese of Kosice in his home country of Slovakia* due to the communist government’s opposition to the Catholic Church, Tomko was ordained a priest in Rome in 1949 and was hired at the Congregation of the Holy Office in 1962.

His service to the Roman Curia continued as the undersecretary of the Congregation for Bishops in 1974, and then appointed by Pope John Paul II as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in 1979 where his understanding and knowledge of the universal Church grew.

In 1985, he was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and became cardinal soon afterwards.

‘Apostolic spirit’

In his homily, Cardinal Re said Tomko’s prolific life embodied the great missionary and apostolic spirit.

His work was dedicated to the creation of numerous new dioceses, the construction of new churches, education centres, social centres, and the development of the missionary cooperation of the Pontifical Mission Societies in many countries, while “always putting Christ at the center in his interventions and manifesting great spirit of openness to peoples, their cultures, their traditions, and sense of universality.”

His legacy of service and love for others, Cardinal Re affirmed, serves as a model for us “to complete our earthly journey in unswerving fidelity and in a never-failing momentum of service to the Church and our brothers and sisters, to which Cardinal Tomko left us edifying testimony.”

*at the time Tomko came to Rome, the country was Czechoslovakia


Pope Benedict was able to watch the funeral of his brother Georg via live-streaming from Rome yesterday. Following is a letter he wrote about his brother that was read in the Regensburg cathedral by Abp. George Gaenswein, Benedict’s longtime private secretary. Benedict remembers his brother as first and foremost a priest, a man of God and a cheerful soul.


By Vatican News

The funeral of Father Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, was held on Wednesday at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Regensburg, Germany.

Fr. Georg Ratzinger died at the age of 96 on 1 July after being hospitalized in Regensburg, the city where he lived the greater part of his life. His death came just over a week after the Pope emeritus made a visit in mid-June to Regensburg to be with his ailing brother.

Following his brother’s death, Pope Francis sent a personal note of condolences to his predecessor, assuring the Pope emeritus of his prayers both for his brother and for Benedict himself.

During the funeral celebrated by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, Archbishop Georg Gänswein read an emotional letter written by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI for the occasion.

“At this hour when you offer my brother the final brotherly service and guide him on his final earthly path, I am with you,” the Pope emeritus assured in his letter.

Pope emeritus Benedict also said that people “from many countries, social and professional backgrounds” had written to him in a way that touched his heart.

Lamenting his inability to reply to each one of them personally, he nonetheless thanked them for accompanying him at this time. He also thanked all those who have been with his late brother “visibly and invisibly” during these past weeks.

“The echo of his life and work, which I have received in these days in the form of letters, telegrams and emails, goes far beyond what I could have imagined,” he wrote, adding that Cardinal Newman’s quip “cor ad cor loquitur” has become true for him, as hearts speak to each other beyond words on paper.

Priest and musician
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI said three characteristics came up in his recollections about his brother.

The first – wrote the Pope emeritus – is that his brother “received and understood his vocation to the priesthood as a musical vocation at the same time.”

He recalled that already in the early years of his elder brother’s life at Tittmoning, Georg took the personal initiative to train himself thoroughly in music. These studies led him to become the Kapellmeister of Regensburg Cathedral and guide of the Regensburger Domspatzen (The Regensburg Cathedral choir) – a title that Georg would not have accepted – the Pope emeritus said, if their Mother was still alive. The Pope emeritus recalled that their mother died around the same time as Kapellmeister Schrems, the predecessor of Georg Ratzinger as Domkapellmeister of Regensburger Domspatzen.

He remarked that this service became “more and more of a joy” for his late brother, adding, however, that “hostility and rejection were not lacking, especially in the beginning.” At the same time, he noted that his brother became a father figure to the many young people who remained with him in the choir.

“My heartfelt thanks also go to all of them at this hour when I was allowed to experience again how he had become and always realized himself again as a priestly person, being a priest and musician,” he wrote.

The second characteristic about his brother that the Pope emeritus remembered is “his cheerfulness, his humor, and his joy for the good gifts of creation.”

“At the same time, however,”  he wrote, “he was a man of direct speech as he expressed his convictions openly.”

He said that despite living in almost total blindness for more than 20 years, his brother “accepted” his situation and “overcame it inwardly.”

A man of God
The Pope emeritus pointed out that “sobriety and honesty were the true center” of his late brother’s life, adding that, “in the end, he was always a man of God.”

Recalling his last visit with his brother, the Pope emeritus said that, when he said “goodbye” to his brother on June 22, he “knew it would be a farewell from this world forever.” Yet he expressed surety in the fact that “the good Lord, who has given us this union in this world, reigns in the other world and will give us a new union.”

“In the end, I would like to thank him for allowing me to be with him again in the last days of his life,” he wrote. “He did not ask me to visit him. But I felt it was time to go see him again. I am deeply grateful for this inner sign that the Lord has given me.”

In conclusion, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI thanked his brother. “Thank you, dear Georg, for all that you have done, suffered and given me.” He also thanked Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer for his assistance.

(A good friend, author and fellow journalist, Michael Hesemann from Dusseldorf, Germany, posted some photos of the funeral of Pope Benedict’s brother, Georg on his FB page but there was no possibility to share. That has been remedied so click below to see those pictures. Michael knew Msgr. Georg and knows Benedict XVI as well. He wrote a terrific book, an interview with Georg, called “My Brother the Pope.”



Tune in this weekend to Vatican Insider for part II of my interview with Jesuit Fr. Tom Smolich, the international director of JRS, Jesuit Refugee Service. He has riveting stories about the JRS, where it serves, whom the Jesuits and their countless volunteers help and how we should get to know and better understand who refugees actually are. Do you know, for example, that many men and women classified as refugees today are degreed people – doctors, teachers, etc. Father Tom also tells us about JRS’ recent campaign to help a religious minority in Iraq. In addition, I ask Father about his great challenges and his greatest joys – memorable answers!

I took this photo in the JRS headquarters in Rome and told Father Tom I’d have to come back some day just to do a story about the scores of crucifixes and crosses that cover one wall of his office. They really tell the story of JRS!

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The funeral of American Cardinal William Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took place this morning at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinal died in the early morning hours of September 26.

At the end of Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Francis presided over the rite of the final commendation and the “valedictio.” Fourteen cardinals concelebrated, along with 21 archbishops, bishops and priests, including Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski, delegate for the pontifical representatives.

Joining members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, were Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, deputy secretary of State, and Monsignor Joseph Murphy, head of the protocol office. Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo assisted the rite, directed by the papal master of ceremonies. Among those present were many religious, including the sisters who assisted the cardinal. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Papal Household, also attended the Mass.

A photo of Pope Francis over the casket of Cardinal Levada was on the front page of the Vatican’s newspaper. L’Osservatore Romano, that came out this afternoon with tomorrow’s date. All of page four was dedicated to Cardinal Levada, and included Cardinal Bertone’s homily.


The following telegram was published at 6 pm Rome time today:

To The Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco

Having learned with sadness of the death of Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco, I hasten to offer my heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese. Recalling with immense gratitude the late Cardinal’s years of priestly and episcopal ministry among Christ’s flock in Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, his singular contributions to catechesis, education and administration, and his distinguished service to the Apostolic See, I willingly join you in commending his noble soul to the infinite mercies of God our heavenly Father. To all those who mourn Cardinal Levada’s passing in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.




Today, April 8 is the 14th anniversary of one of the most remarkable days in the history of the Church – the funeral of the beloved Pope John Paul II after an almost 27-year papacy, the 3rd longest in the Catholic Church after St. Peter and Pope Pius IX. He had died on April 2, vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.

I was reporting on the funeral that day and the photos I took in the following slideshow were taken both before the funeral Mass as I walked from my home to the Holy See Press Office and then after the funeral Mass as I walked down Via della Conciliazione and around Pza. Pio XII and St. Peter’s Square.

Having worked at the Vatican for 15 years of his pontificate, I cannot forget the man, his works, his life, long illness, death and massive funeral. Those of us who worked for the Holy See were privileged to pay our respects in the Apostolic Palace’s Clementine Hall where the Pope was laying in state. He had been moved there on April 3 and then to the basilica for viewing by the faithful on April 4. Even there, we employees had a privileged entrance.

These pictures are from the vigil of the funeral as people paid their respects inside the basilica, day and night.

An estimated 4 million people were in Rome for the week following John Paul’s death – 4 million souls whom Rome fed and housed and cared for! Just over half were able to enter St. Peter’s Basilica to view the pontiff, often waiting in line from 5 to 19 hours!! Over 1 million watched his funeral on 30 megascreens set up throughout the city.

The Vatican announced that 149 heads of State and government were at the funeral – the single largest gathering in history of heads of State outside of the United Nations and that number included 4 kings and 5 queens and scores of presidents and prime ministers.

I live across from Vatican City and watched the incredible cavalcade of VIP cars as they entered Vatican City via the Perugino Gate to access the Diplomats Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. Motorcades carrying heads of state or government may enter Vatican City except for police escorts.

On a normal day the walk from my apartment to the Vatican office where I worked would have taken 8 minutes. April 8th it was closer to 40 minutes and I was lucky at that because every uniformed officer who in some way surrounded Vatican City that day and was guarding all access via streets and sidewalks had been given a copy of the official Vatican press office ID and told to absolutely let us through so we could work.

Rome was like no one had ever seen it: Car and truck traffic was greatly reduced or banned completely in certain areas of the center of Rome and banned in all areas surrounding Vatican City. VIP motorcades that brought dignitaries to the Vatican were allowed, as I said. Schools and public offices were closed. One could hear the constant whirr of security helicopter rotors and the noise of fighter jets as they flew around airspace closed to private planes.

The sheer numbers of the day were overwhelming – the numbers of cars, motorcycles, policemen, fireman – just about anyone who wore a uniform – was at or near the Vatican that day. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of faithful who filled every inch of space created by God and man.

For me, the most stunning image of the day was that of the Holy Father’s simple wood coffin on top of which was the Book of Gospels, What was so stunning was how the strong wind (the Holy Spirit for sure!) opened the book, gently turned the pages and finally closed the Book of Gospels as if signifying the end of an earthly life and the start of eternal life – as if justifying the countless banners that read SANTO SUBITO – SAINTHOOD IMMEDIATELY!

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, main celebrant of the Mass and future Benedict XVI, said in his funeral homily: “Our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.”


I was honored, albeit sad, to attend the funeral Mass this morning for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran about whom, as you know, I’ve written in recent days. It was gratifying to see so many members of the diplomatic corps and equally so to see representatives of other religions, including many non-Christians. Many tributes have appeared since his July 5 death and I have been pleased to note how many were indeed from non-Christian leaders, a tribute to Cardinal Tauran’s tireless work in inter-religious dialogue.

How could we not think of the parallel with St. John Paul II, so very ill for so long with Parkinson’s and yet he kept on “fighting the good fight,” knowing the Lord would call him when it was his time.

I suppose it is very human of me to want to imagine a conversation the two are now having about the Church today, about inter-religious dialogue, about peace in the world.
Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Tauran worked for many years side by side in the Secretariat of State. Sodano was called to serve as Pro-Secretary of State on December 1, 1990. When he became a cardinal on June 28, 1991, he became Secretary of State.

Tauran was named Secretary for Relations with States on the same day, December 1, 1990 and remained there until 2003 when he was named Librarian and Archivist of Holy Roman Church.

I had been working at the Vatican Information Service for only a few months when the press office announced the appointments of Sodano and Tauran on December 1, 1990 – the same day that saw the retirement of Sodano’s predecessor, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, about whom I could write a volume and about whom volumes have been written, most focussing on Casaroli as the architect of the Vatican’s Ostpolitik, its diplomacy with countries of then Communist Eastern Europe.

My superior at VIS, Pedro Brunori decided on the spur of the moment that we should be present in the Secretariat of State where there was a small reception for the outgoing cardinal secretary and to welcome for Sodano and Tauran. He told us to take our Vatican IDs and three of us made our way to the Apostolic Palace, crossing the San Damaso courtyard to elevators that would take us to the Secretariat of State.

I had my doubts about going with Pedro as it was a Saturday and that was the only day of the week I allowed myself to wear slacks or a pantsuit to work. Pedro was nonplussed and said I looked the part as I had black slacks, a white blouse and a red sweater with matching red-white and black scarf.

A fellow American who worked for the Vatican at the time saw me cross the San Damaso courtyard and she said I could not go in slacks. Pedro and my colleague simply nodded, I shrugged my shoulders and we kept walking.

I was awed, as a newcomer in town, so to speak, by the history and beauty of the rooms of the Apostolic Palace and by meeting the outgoing Casaroli, about whom I had written many articles for the Regsiter, and then meeting the new secretary of State Sodano and the new “foreign minister” Tauran.

I will never forget shaking hands with Cardinal Sodano who smiled and said, “Signora, you do us honors today with the colors you are wearing!”

Pedro wanted us to do some PR while we were at the reception. The Vatican Information Service was only a few months old at the time and he wanted everyone to know about this new news service of the Holy See and Vatican.

As I write these lines I think back to the myriad encounters I had during those years I worked for the Vatican. I was present for history-making moments, met the movers and shakers of the Catholic hierarchy on the domestic scene and the international one and have said farewell to the great ones. Like Cardinal Tauran.

And this is why, when people say to me ”God bless you,” my usual reply is “He really has!”


The funeral Mass this morning for Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Tauran died July 5 in the United States after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

While Pope Francis was scheduled to celebrate the valedictorio at the end of the Mass, he was present throughout the entire Eucharistic celebration. (photos by EWTN/CNA’s Daniel Ibanez)

Scores of bishops, archbishops and cardinals were present as were many members of the diplomatic corps and many representatives of other religions. Diplomats and members of other religions were seated in the front rows. At the time of his death, at the end of a long and remarkable career in service to the Holy See, Cardinal Tauran was the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and camerlengo of Holy Roman Church.

The presence of many diplomats was a testament to Cardinal Tauran’s years in the Church’s diplomatic corps. He had previously served in the Secretariat of State as Secretary for Relations with States, the equivalent of a foreign minister.

In his homily, Cardinal Sodano described his French confrère as “a man who courageously served Christ’s holy Church, despite the burden of his illness.”

He centered his homily on the Beatitudes and said they “always illuminated the life of our dearly departed brother, like bright stars along his journey.”

Cardinal Sodano also quoted the very beautiful words of St. Augustine: “Lord, we do not complain because you have taken him away from us; rather, we thank you for having given him to us.”

Referring to the period when he and Cardinal Tauran were colleagues in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Sodano said: “For many years I witnessed the great apostolic spirit of the late Cardinal, in the long years of common service to the Holy See, and I will keep a grateful memory of it forever.”

“Cardinal Tauran,” continued the dean of the College of Cardinals, “was a great example of a priest, a Bishop, a Cardinal” who dedicated his whole life to the service of the Church; and more recently especially to “dialogue with all men of good will.”

In this way, Cardinal Tauran lived out the words of Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes: “Since God the Father is the origin and purpose of all men, we are all called to be brothers. Therefore, if we have been summoned to the same destiny, human and divine, we can and we should work together without violence and deceit in order to build up the world in genuine peace.”




This afternoon I attended the funeral Mass for Cardinal Bernard Law, 86, who died early Wednesday morning. As is Vatican tradition for cardinals who reside in Rome, Mass was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at the Mass, concelebrated with other members of the College of Cardinals and a number of archbishops.

Members of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance, including U.S. ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich who will present her Letters of Credence to Pope Francis tomorrow morning, She was accompanied by her husband, former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

After the Eucharistic celebration, Pope Francis entered St. Peter’s through the diplomatic entrance to the church, just opposite the Santa Marta residence, and presided over the rite of Final Commendation and the Valediction, as is usual at a funeral Mass for a cardinal. He did not pronounce any personal or prepared remarks.

Missalettes prepared by the Vatican assisted those present, including many priests and friends in the Roman Curia and others who lived in Rome, to follow the funeral rite.

Cardinal Law’s final resting place will be in St. Mary Major Basilica where he served many years as archpriest, resigning six years ago on his 80th birthday. It is customary for priests who served there to be buried there.

From CNA/EWTN News:
Cardinal Law died in Rome at the age of 86, after a brief hospitalization due to a congenital heart failure. Two weeks ago, he experienced a decline in health and was admitted to a clinic in Rome to monitor the problem. He had been unresponsive for several days before his death.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., who served as Law’s spokesman during the period before the cardinal’s resignation from Boston, said in a statement on his death that like each of us, Law’s days had their fair share of “light and shadows.”

“While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and a good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church,” he said.

“May Cardinal Law rest in peace. And in these days when, as Christians, we celebrate the Child who restored God’s goodness to our broken humanity, may we all recommit ourselves to making Christ’s Church a worthy, welcoming home for all, especially those most vulnerable and in need,” Coyne added.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and Law’s immediate successor, published a statement Dec. 20, offering his sincere apologies to anyone who has experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy.

“As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the Church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people,” particularly children, he stated, noting his own work and the work of other priests and religious sisters of the Archdiocese to help bring healing to those most affected and the wider Catholic community.

The fact that Cardinal Law’s life and ministry, for many people, is identified with the crisis of sexual abuse by priests is a “sad reality,” he said, because his “pastoral legacy has many other dimensions.”

These include his involvement in the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in the early part of his priesthood, as well as his leadership in the ecumenical and interfaith movement following the Second Vatican Council. He was also well-known for his ministry to the sick, dying and bereaved, O’Malley recounted.

“In the Catholic tradition, the Mass of Christian Burial is the moment in which we all recognize our mortality, when we acknowledge that we all strive for holiness in a journey which can be marked by failures large and small,” he concluded.

“Cardinal Law will be buried in Rome where he completed his last assignment. I offer prayers for him and his loved ones as well as for all the people of the Archdiocese.”

A Dec. 20 statement by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed O’Malley’s statement of condolence and prayers.

Expressing his closeness to survivors of sexual abuse, especially at this time, DiNardo prayed that they might find peace and strength.
He also commended their brave witness, which led to “a comprehensive response from the Church in the United States to protect and heal the deep wounds of abuse.”

On a personal note:

I have known Cardinal Law for at least 32 years, since the day he was made a cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul, who assigned him the titular church of Santa Susanna, home at that time for the Catholic American community in Rome. The cardinal was unable to take possession of the title of Santa Susanna until 1993 because the church was closed for years to repair the beautifully carved and gilt wood ceiling that, over the past 400 years, had simply worn out and was threatening to cave in. Work took far longer than anyone anticipated and we were the pilgrim church on earth for a good eight years.

I was a lector at many of the Masses that Cardinal Law celebrated at Santa Susanna and we also shared a number of meals over the years, breaking bread with friends, sharing stories of our lives in Rome, etc.

When news of the clergy sex abuse scandal began to seep out from Boston and then grew from a small wave to a tsunami, I, like millions, was devastated by what I heard and read. Things just seemed to get worse, priests from other dioceses were being accused, the number of victims was growing and then we learned – over time – that the same situation was being discovered in other countries, in seminaries, in places where the word ‘abuse’ should never have even been pronounced, much less actually happen!

I worked at the Vatican at the time and it seems we lived day to day, awaiting new revelations, papal reaction and action, action by the cardinals and other prelates of the Church in America. Those were very difficult months and years for every faithful Catholic. How on earth could this ever have happened!

I was fully aware of those early years in Boston – and then elsewhere. I was fully aware of the charges, the victims’ stories, the physical and spiritual anguish and damage, etc . My heart broke and still breaks when I hear such stories. I know that one bad priest is one too many!

I say “I was fully” aware – maybe I should say I was as fully aware as possible without being a victim.

I tried to place myself in their shoes and never fully succeeded, of course. Just as I have never succeeded in imagining what it would be like to lose everything I own in a fire or hurricane, to lose a limb in an accident, to have my whole family wiped out in a tragedy,

I followed everything for years, especially because I covered then, as I do now, the Church and the Vatican. And I have always followed the news of the
commission the Pope set up to combat sex abuse by clergy – or anyone

It is such a sorrowful fact that the Church even needs such a commission!

In the case of Cardinal Law, for all the very bad judgment he may have used – and bad advice he may have received and heeded – I cannot allow myself to be his judge. There is so much I do not know.

What I do know is how he was a friend to me and to many in Rome. I know
of some – but not all – of his many humanitarian works, his caring gestures for people in need, his efforts to be there for anyone who needed his time or advice or assistance. I know how he helped the pastor of Santa Susanna’s church – Cardinal Law’s titular church in Rome – when the Cistercian nuns closed the doors to our wonderful faith community, never again allowing us back in the church! He did all he could to help us find a new church – and to be close to our beloved pastor during those four years of exile (again!).

And, if you talk to the many people in Rome who knew him and to those who attended his funeral today, you will hear even more good stories – dare I say, heart-warming stories.

There was an enormous amount of good in Cardinal Law’s life – very hard to find in the media during his later life. It is truly amazing how many people do not know anything of Cardinal Law’s life other than the scandal.

As Cardinal O’Malley of Boston pointed out yesterday in The Pilot:

”It is a sad reality that for many Cardinal Law’s life and ministry is
identified with one overwhelming reality, the crisis of sexual abuse
by priests. This fact carries a note of sadness because his pastoral
legacy has many other dimensions. Early in his priesthood in
Mississippi Cardinal Law was deeply engaged in the civil rights
struggle in our country. Later, he served in the Archdiocese and
nationally as a leader in the ecumenical and interfaith movement
following the Second Vatican Council, developing strong collaborative
relationships with the Greek Orthodox and Jewish communities in
Boston. He was well known for visiting the sick, the dying and the
bereaved at all hours of the night and day, a ministry that extended
to the rich and poor, the young and elderly, and people of all faiths.
He also held the care for immigrants and their families in a special
place in his ministry.”

Reading those lines reminded me of the day years ago, after I had had serious surgery, that Cardinal Law came for a visit to the Pio XI clinic where I was a patient, accompanied by one of his good friends, the late Cardinal William Baum. The nuns were all aflutter because “two”, and they repeated it, “two cardinals” came calling on me. They thought I was important and had not told them (!). I assured them the important people in the room were the cardinals whose ministry it was to visit the sick! And without fanfare!

That is, by the way, the very same clinic in which Cardinal Law died yesterday.

As I write, I am trying to spend time remembering the good in a man’s life as everyone is already aware of the bad.

I must close with a request for prayers, prayers for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Bernard Law, for the Lord’s mercy to shine upon him and, most especially in this season when the Lord Jesus first appeared in our lives, prayers for the victims of abuse, for their families, for those whose hurt may never diminish.