Father Richard John Neuhaus Dead at 72

First Things Founder Suffered From Cancer

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NEW YORK, JAN. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Father Richard John Neuhaus, prominent Catholic priest and founder of the religion magazine First Things, died today after a short battle with cancer. He was 72.

According to a note sent out by Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, Father Neuhaus died shortly before 10 a.m. at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

In a post on the First Things blog after Christmas, Bottum reported that Father Neuhaus was diagnosed with serious cancer over Thanksgiving. At the time he said the long-term prognosis was not good, but that the priest would be undergoing outpatient chemotherapy treatment.

The day after Christmas, however, Father Neuhaus was admitted into the hospital after suffering a systemic infection caused by side effects from the cancer.

Bottom reported that Father Neuhaus never recovered from the infection, and on Tuesday evening he «lost consciousness … after a collapse in his heart rate, and the next day, in the company of friends, he died.» Father George Rutler had administered the sacrament of last rites just after midnight on Tuesday.

«My tears are not for him,» wrote Bottum, «for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted. I weep, rather for all the rest of us.

«As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.»

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Storming the gates

Father Neuhaus publicly announced his battle with cancer at the end of his First Things column on Dec. 5. He wrote: «I cannot begin to respond to the deluge of assurances of prayer and concern about my health. Please be assured that I am grateful and count mightily on being remembered by you before the Throne of Grace. Or, as Catholics are wont to say, on your storming the gates of heaven.

«The nature of the cancer is beginning to come into clearer focus, and I hope to have more details in short order. Meanwhile, I will, please God, continue to be as engaged as possible in the work of First Things and other apostolates, even as I am compelled by grace to know more deeply our solidarity within the Body of Christ.»

Richard John Neuhaus was born May 14, 1936, in Pembroke, Ontario. He was one of eight children, and his father was a Lutheran minister.

Neuhaus himself was ordained a minister around 1960. Later, he moved to the United States where he became a naturalized citizen.

In 1990, Neuhaus founded First Things, a journal published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life.

He was received into the Catholic Church on Sept. 8, 1990. A year later Cardinal John O’Connor (1920-2000), the then archbishop of New York, ordained him as a priest.

Father Neuhaus authored several books, including «The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America» (1984), «The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World» (1987), and «Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth» (2006).

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