Mass in Rome memorializes Cardinal John Foley

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

ROME — Thirty days after the death of our friend Cardinal John P. Foley, his successor as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications celebrated Mass in his memory, recalling the late American prelate as a “man of God who became a man of communication.”

Archbishop Claudio Celli gives the homily during a Mass in memory of Cardinal John P. Foley in Rome Jan. 11. Cardinal Foley, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications for more than two decades, died Dec. 11 after a battle with leukemia. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Claudio M. Celli offered the traditional trigesimo Mass for Cardinal Foley at Rome’s Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, only a few blocks from St. Peter’s Square. Among his concelebrants were Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the council, and Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. Among those attending the Mass were Marian Diaz, wife of the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and numerous members of the Vatican press corps.

In his homily, Archbishop Celli recalled the late cardinal’s last visit to the council’s offices early in 2011, shortly before he left Rome for his native Philadelphia for good. Weakened by the leukemia that would ultimately kill him, Cardinal Foley nevertheless showed his usual humor, referring to a bottle of Coca-Cola as American champagne.

In that meeting, Archbishop Celli said, the late cardinal acted in the role of teacher to his former colleagues, demonstrating how “suffering has at its disposal modes of expression that not even all the new (information) technology can ever match.”

“He had come to give us the last, most important lesson,” the archbishop said, “giving his best, as a communicator of course, but all the more so as a witness and faithful servant of the Word.”

Archbishop Celli paid tribute to Cardinal Foley’s civility: “He had the tone of one who, in confrontation, saw neither enemies nor adversaries” but people to whom he could show, “through an always cordial welcome, the benevolence of the Lord.”

Cardinal Foley (CNS/Bob Roller)

The archbishop recalled some of the highlights of Cardinal Foley’s career, including his stint at The Catholic Standard and Times in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and of course his 23 years at the council, where he led the Vatican into the Internet age and presided over the publication of studies on key issues in contemporary communications, including online pornography.

Visibly moved, Archbishop Celli concluded his homily by thanking God for “this wise and generous pastor who bore witness, up to the very end, to how the essence of communication may be translated into a true and authentic reality of communion.”

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