Cardinal John Foley, great Catholic communicator, dies at 76

.- Cardinal John Patrick Foley, former head of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, died in Pennsylvania on Dec. 11 at the age of 76. Pope Benedict XVI expressed gratitude for the cardinal’s priestly ministry and “distinguished service.”

In a message to Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput, the Pope prayed that Cardinal Foley’s “lifelong commitment” to the Church’s presence in the media will inspire others to take up an apostolate “so essential to the proclamation of the Gospel and the progress of the new evangelization.”

“To all who mourn Cardinal Foley in the hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Chaput said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the cardinal’s death.

“Cardinal Foley was a man of great apostolic energy. 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,” the archbishop said Dec. 11.

Cardinal Foley was born to John and Regina Foley in Darby, Pa. on Nov. 11, 1935. He grew up in Holy Spirit Parish in Delaware County outside of Philadelphia.

The future cardinal was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1962 and edited the archdiocesan paper, the Catholic Standard & Times. He served as editor of Rome’s archdiocesan newspaper from 1970 to 1984. Ordained a bishop in 1984, he served as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from that year through 2007.

For 21 years, he provided the English-language commentary for the global TV broadcasts of Christmas and Easter Masses.

He became a cardinal in 2007 after Pope Benedict appointed him Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which gives spiritual and financial support to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land and helps maintain Christian shrines there.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, the new pro-grand master of the order, said that the order grew “significantly” in numbers under the cardinal, largely due to his “devoted commitment.”

“I will be ever grateful for his words of support and counsel these three brief months since my appointment,” the archbishop continued, adding that the cardinal has long been regarded as “the patriarch of the American Catholic press.”

“Though very many of us will miss him, we prayerfully offer him back to God with gratitude for his friendship, his sterling priestly example and his many contributions to the kingdom of God on earth.”

Cardinal Foley returned to Philadelphia after being diagnosed with leukemia and other health ailments. He died at the retired priests’ home Villa St. Joseph, about 100 yards from the hospital where he was born, the Chester County Daily Local News reports.

On his 76th birthday this past Nov. 11, Cardinal Foley said he was grateful to God for a wonderful life.

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

He asked the people of Philadelphia to pray for the cardinal.

“All of us are very grateful for the life and service of Cardinal Foley. His charisma and gentle spirit will be sorely missed throughout the Universal Church.”

On Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. the cardinal’s body will be transferred to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary’s Chapel of St. Martin of Tours in Wynnewood, Pa. After midmorning prayers, his body will lay in state for public viewing.

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia will celebrate Mass at 7 p.m., after which the chapel will be closed.

Cardinal Foley’s body will be transferred to Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul at 9:15 a.m. Dec. 16. His body will be received at the cathedral at 10 a.m., followed by Midmorning Prayer and another public viewing.

His Solemn Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 2 p.m., followed by the Rite of Committal in the Cathedral Crypt below the main altar.

Updated Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:20 MST. Adds funeral information.

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