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Cardinal Foley, ‘patriarch of American Catholic press,’ dead at 76

Catholic World News - December 12, 2011

Cardinal John Patrick Foley, who served as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 1984 until 2007, died of leukemia on December 11. He was 76.

“Everyone who had ever met Cardinal Foley admired and loved him for his kindness and for his spirituality,” said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.

With the death of Cardinal Foley, there are now 192 living members of the College of Cardinals, of whom 109 are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to participate in a papal conclave. Vatican insiders expect Pope Benedict XVI to call a consistory for the elevation of new cardinals sometime in 2012.

An affable man with a lively sense of humor and a pronounced weakness for puns, Cardinal Foley was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and edited Philadelphia’s archdiocesan newspaper before his appointment to Rome. He was known to journalists through his work with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Americans became familiar with him for his role on television broadcasts of papal ceremonies; he provided commentary on the midnight Christmas Mass from St. Peter's basilica every year from 1984 to 2009.

“Cardinal Foley was a man of great apostolic energy,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. “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.”

In 2007, Pope Benedict created him a cardinal and appointed him grandmaster of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a position from which he retired in August because of his deteriorating health.

“He was a gifted evangelizer, explaining Catholic teaching and practice clearly and thoroughly and often with a self-deprecating humor,” added Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, who succeeded Cardinal Foley as grandmaster of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. “He has long been regarded as the patriarch of the American Catholic press.”

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