Bernardin Succumbs to Cancer: Chicago Cardinal Issues Deathbed Warning on Euthanasia
Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, who shaped the Catholic bishops' bureaucracy and brought Catholic social teaching into America's political debate, died of cancer yesterday. He was 68.
As America's senior cardinal, he made his yearlong health battle a public lesson on faith and dying.
That drama peaked Wednesday as the cardinal slipped into a coma at his home and in Washington his fellow bishops legislated his reorganization plan and disclosed his deathbed warning to the Supreme Court against legalization of euthanasia.
"To a skeptical world, he spoke of death convincingly not as an end, but as a beginning of a new and eternal life," Cardinal James A. Hickey of Washington said yesterday during a Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral.
A handwritten letter by Cardinal Bernardin was read to the gathered bishops this week, stating his hopes that his final proposal to reshape their legislative body "will refine the conference's work and encourage more bishops to participate in it."
Pope John Paul II called him by telephone Wednesday and gave Cardinal Bernardin a blessing that the dying prelate could not hear.
Cardinal Bernardin lived in Washington from 1968 to 1972, serving as the second general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and developing its consultative and policy-making structure.
Sam Stratman, a Capitol Hill staffer, said the cardinal, then archbishop of Cincinnati, confirmed him at St. Columbkille parish in Wilmington, Ohio. "There was a great sense of divine majesty that surrounded him," he recalled. "For a small country parish, that was a major event."
Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, Illinois Democrat and a Catholic in the cardinal's archdiocese, said the nation was blessed by his presence. "We rejoice in certain knowledge that he is with God," she said.
Cardinal Bernardin became leader of the 2.3-million-member Archdiocese of Chicago in 1982. The next year he became a cardinal.
He underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in June 1995 and announced two months later that it was terminal. "We can look at death in two ways, as an enemy or as a friend," he said in that announcement. …