Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's goodbye to Cardinal Avery Dulles

Avery Cardinal Dulles passed away at about 6:30 on the morning of December 12th, 2008, at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary, located at Fordham University, Bronx, New York. He was 90 years old.

A reknowned theologian -- and the first ever American theologian to be appointed Cardinal -- he is mourned the world over. A compilation of articles recognizing his passing, as well as many personal tributes, has been collected on the Cardinal's online archive.

The Cardinal's passing is noted by the Holy Father as well, who conveyed the following statement in a telegram to Cardinal Egan of New York:
"Having learned with sadness of the death of Cardinal Avery Dulles, I offer you my heartfelt condolences, which I ask you to kindly convey to his family, his confreres in the Society of Jesus and the academic community of Fordham University. I join you in commending the late Cardinal's noble soul to God, the Father of Mercies, with immense gratitude for the deep learning, serene judgment and unfailing love of the Lord and his Church which marked his entire priestly ministry and his long years of teaching and theological research. At the same time I pray that his convincing personal testimony to the harmony of faith and reason will continue to bear fruit for the conversion of minds and hearts and the progress of the gospel for many years to come. To all who mourn him in the hope of the resurrection I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ."
Readers might recall that during the Pope's visit to New York City in April 2008, Benedict XVI took time out to visit with Cardinal Dulles personally. The following account (by way of America magazine) is taken from the New York Jesuits' newsletter, written by Anne Marie Kirmse, O.P., Cardinal Dulles's longtime assistant:
"The Pope literally bounded into the room with a big smile on his face. He went directly to where Avery was sitting, saying, 'Eminenza, Eminenza, I recall the work you did for the International Theological Committee in the 1990's.' Avery kissed the papal ring and smiled back at the Pope. Then the Pope looked at the people in the room who had accompanied Avery to the Seminary: Fr. Tom Marciniak, who served as Cardinal Dulles's priest-chaplain for the meeting; Sr. Anne-Marie Kirmse, O.P.; and Francine Messiah and Oslyn Fergus of the [Jesuit infirmary's] medical staff. After this warm and friendly exchange of greetings, the Pope sat down next to Avery to hear the remarks that Avery had prepared and which were read for him by Fr. Tom Marciniak. During the presentation, Fr. Tom handed the Pope a copy of Avery's latest book, Church and Society: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007, which was published earlier this month by Fordham University Press. The Pope expressed great interest in the book, and even interrupted the reading of the remarks to ask again when the book had been published. He eagerly looked through it, and was touched by Avery's inscription to him. Before leaving, the Pope blessed Avery, assuring him of his prayers, and encouraging him in his sufferings. He then said good-bye in turn to each of the four persons who accompanied Avery."
Commenting on his passing, Cardinal O'Malley of Boston recalled a passage from Cardinal Dulles' final lecture, "A Life in Theology", which was read for him:
"Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils, but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"


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