Injured priest says Cardinal Keeler back, speaks of “ferocious impact”

.- Monsignor Thomas Smith, one of the life-long friends who was with Baltimore’s Cardinal William Keeler when their car was struck in Italy said yesterday that he and the cardinal are grateful to be home.  Msgr. Smith also spoke briefly about the accident which took the life of a third friend, Fr. Bernard Quinn.

In a story published by the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal, Msgr. Smith said he and the Cardinal are safely home and doing well, though “aching a bit.”

The three men, friends since their time of service in the Diocese of Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), were vacationing together in Terni, Italy, on Oct. 7th when another vehicle sideswiped their car, breaking Cardinal Keeler’s leg, three of Msgr. Smith’s ribs, and killing Fr. Quinn.

“I saw a car coming very, very fast,” Smith told the Intelligencer Journal.  “It was going to hit me, so I turned to avoid it and it broadsided us. It was a really ferocious impact. I know all about air bags now.”

“It was a shock, the whole thing,” Smith said.

Msgr. Smith and the cardinal were taken to a hospital for treatment, then released to recuperate at the Pontifical North American College, the American Seminary in Rome.

Smith said he and the cardinal were cleared for travel but unsure how they would make it home.  “We couldn’t figure out how we were going to get through the airport with the cardinal’s heavy plaster cast,” Smith said.

Fortunately U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Rooney, was planning a trip across the Atlantic in his private jet and offered the two a lift.  “It was a real blessing,” Monsignor said of the private flight.

Msgr. Smith said he’s happy to be back home and although it will take about six weeks for his ribs to heal he hopes to be strong enough for his Sunday Masses at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lancaster.  

“People are happy to see me back. I’m sure it’s the same thing with the cardinal,” he said.

Smith told the Lancaster paper that plans are still on hold for the funeral of his friend and brother priest.  Fr. Quinn’s body must undergo an autopsy and embalming before being transported from Italy.  But, he said, the funeral Mass will most likely be held late next week at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church.

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