Nov 12, 2014
Last week, the American Catholic Church lost one of its leading priest-theologians. Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a physicist, friend of liberals, skeptics, and atheists, and confidant of popes, died at the age of seventy-three from complications of Parkinson’s disease. A short, rotund man with a towering mind and a deep bass voice, he became a regular guest of Charlie Rose, CNN, and National Public Radio. This urbane priest made the faith attractive to his audiences beguiling them with his warmth, wit, charm, and common sense.
Who Was Lorenzo Albacete?
Lorenzo Albacete was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1941. His father was fiercely anticlerical and opposed his son’s serving as an altar boy. At the Catholic University of America, the young man majored in physics and aerospace science and then, for seven years, worked at the Naval Ordinance Laboratory in Maryland. Planning to marry, he changed course and entered the seminary at CUA. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. After priestly ordination, he served in the archbishopric of Washington. His resume is long and varied.
When the young priest was assigned to be a guide for the visit of Karol Wojtyla, then the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, the two became fast friends through their mutual interest in philosophy and the arts. Years later, when Karol Wojtyla returned to Washington as Pope John Paul II, known, among other things, as a prolific letter writer, he fixed his twinkling eyes on the priest, notoriously delinquent as a correspondent, and remarked: “Lorenzo, maybe now you will answer my letters” (Paul Vitiello, “Lorenzo Albacete, Theologian and Confidant of Popes,” NY Times, Nov 4, 2014).