Servant of God Cardinal Terence Cooke's cause for sainthood has advanced with the delivery of the relevant documents to the Holy See. Investigations into the life of the much loved former Archbishop of New York have begun the "Roman phase" of his path to canonization.
Following Pope Benedict XVI's general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York visited to greet the pontiff and to deliver documents that could help his predecessor be declared a saint.
Cardinal Cooke, born, raised and ordained in New York City, was consecrated bishop in 1965. From his position of vicar general of the Archdiocese of New York, at the age of 47, he was chosen to succeed Francis Cardinal Spellman as archbishop upon his death in 1967. He also became Military Vicar for the United States.
According to The Cardinal Cooke Guild, during the 14 years Cardinal Cooke spent at the helm of the archdiocese many of the needy were assisted by his initiatives personally. Among the programs founded on his watch were Birthright, Courage and Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper.
Under his direction, the Church cared for 60 percent of the city's abandoned or neglected children.
The Guild describes his extraordinary efforts for the homeless, elderly, marginalized and sick, adding that Cardinal Cooke “never failed to listen to others and to address their needs."
Although it wasn't known publicly, he suffered from leukemia. He was diagnosed during his first year as archbishop. Even up to his death in 1983, he was heard joyfully saying, “Life is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness, weakness, hunger or poverty, physical or mental diseases, loneliness or old age.”
According to the Guild, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, was named Postulator for Cardinal Cooke's cause by John Cardinal O'Connor and in 1992 the cardinal received Servant of God status from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS).
Since then, the cardinal's cause has gone through the "local phase."
The Ambrosi Legal Firm, which is representing the cause in Rome, has described the process.
First, information for in Cardinal Cooke's cause was compiled by the Postulator and given to the local bishop. The information included a biography as well as any of the cardinal’s writings, which must be certified as congruent with Church teaching by two censor theologians.
The information also includes a list of witnesses to the life of the Servant of God. A formal request to introduce the cause was also made.
After receiving the request and documents, the bishop conferred with any other bishops in the region about introducing the cause and invited the cardinal's devotees to present other possible writings which were the also the object of theological review.
With these steps completed, the process began the "Roman phase" with Archbishop Dolan's delivery of the complete documentation in the form of a "positio," a position paper, to the Holy See.
L'Osservatore Romano briefly spoke with the archbishop after he delivered the positio at Wednesday's audience. He said that the figure of the late cardinal remains “very current as a model for bishops and priests."
"Cooke maintained serenity amidst the tempest; he was always close to his people, despite a serious illness. His testimony of strength and truth especially encourages us bishops of today."
The next step in the process, whose duration is impossible to predict, is the revision of documents by the CCS. Upon the conclusion of the review, if Cardinal Cooke is declared to have displayed "heroic virtue" in his life, by Papal decree he will be designated as venerable.
If a miracle is officially attributed to his intervention after much more documentation and investigation, he could then be beatified. At that point, a second recognized miracle would lead to his canonization.