Vatican´s Legal Adviser to U.N. Dies at 76

NEW YORK, JAN. 21, 2001 (

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Monsignor Vincent R. La Rocca, a legal adviser to the Vatican mission to the United Nations, died last week following a heart attack, the Associated Press reported. He was 76.

A personal friend of John Paul II, Monsignor LaRocca had served since 1992 as legal expert to the Holy See´s permanent observer mission to the United Nations.

He died Tuesday at the Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen rectory in his native Brooklyn. He was to be buried in Brooklyn over the weekend.

La Rocca spent 20 years as a Legal Aid Society attorney after earning a law degree from St. John´s University in 1972. He was long a familiar figure in gritty Brooklyn courthouses, where he defended clients in drug, assault and other criminal cases. Noted for a wry wit, he liked to tell clients after winning their acquittal, «See you in church.»

In 1974, a judge barred Monsignor La Rocca from wearing his collar while defending a criminal suspect, on grounds it could prejudice jurors. Monsignor La Rocca, contending that the order denied him the right to freedom of religion, took the case to the New York State Court of Appeals. The court eventually ruled 6 to 1 against him.

Monsignor La Rocca also taught history, French and theology. He held master´s degrees in psychology, modern languages and European history, and a Ph.D. in American history.

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