Funeral Friday for Rockville Centre Leader

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NEW YORK, DEC. 12, 2000 (
Bishop James T. McHugh of Rockville Centre was remembered Monday by colleagues and friends as a scholarly man willing to listen patiently to opposing views but fiercely uncompromising in his advocacy of Church teachings about the sanctity of human life, The New York Times said today.

The bishop, 68, who headed the diocese since January, died Sunday afternoon at his residence there after an 18-month fight with cancer of the gallbladder and liver, and more recent complications that interfered with his digestion, the Times said.

A funeral Mass celebrated by Archbishop Edward M. Egan of New York was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, the diocese said.

Auxiliary Bishop Emil Wcela of Riverhead, the most senior auxiliary bishop in the diocese, became the person in charge upon Bishop McHugh´s death, the Times said. The Vatican will decide on a new bishop.

Diocesan spokeswoman Joanne Navarro said that despite his illness Bishop McHugh took the lead in demanding that teachers at the two Catholic diocesan high schools on Long Island agree to teach Catholic values as part of a contract renewal in September, the Times said. «He wanted a clause in the contract, and he took a very hard line on it,» she said.

Before the November elections, Bishop McHugh caused a stir and invoked the anger of pro-abortion groups by directing diocesan priests to bar candidates who support abortion from speaking at Church-sponsored candidate nights, the Times said. The directive led to the cancellation of several events, the paper noted.

Bishop John R. McGann said that Bishop McHugh, whom he preceded, was a «man of intelligence and broad conviction» who was passionately opposed to abortion and made Catholic family values as taught by the Church his highest priority.

«He didn´t mince words if he thought someone was misinterpreting the teachings of the Church,» he said. «There were within the Church, people that were more liberal, and he was willing to listen to them and do his homework. But he was very clear in what he said.»

Bishop McHugh headed the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, from 1989 until he came to the Long Island diocese last year. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the bishop of the Diocese of Camden, said Bishop McHugh would be remembered for «his valiant, unwavering voice for the pro-life movement in the United States.»

Bishop DiMarzio said that as a member of a Vatican delegation to a U.N. conference in 1994, Bishop McHugh had been instrumental in blocking the use of U.N. money for abortions, the Times said.

David Coghlan, superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Camden, said Bishop McHugh had insisted on lowering tuition costs for low-income families. «He impressed on everyone the true mission of Catholic education,» he said.

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