Bush Saddened at Death of Father Neuhaus

Funeral Set for Tuesday in New York

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By Karna Swanson

NEW YORK, JAN. 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In a message sent on the occasion of the death of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, President George Bush called the founder of the religion magazine First Things an «inspirational leader» and a «dear friend.»

Father Neuhaus, a prominent theologian and prolific writer, died Thursday in New York of complications from cancer. He was 72.

Bush said in his message that he and his wife Laura were both «saddened» by the death of Father Neuhaus. The president called him «an inspirational leader, admired theologian, and accomplished author who devoted his life to the service of the Almighty and to the betterment of our world.»

«He was also a dear friend, and I have treasured his wise counsel and guidance,» Bush added.

Many Catholic leaders, especially those working to promote the dignity of life, echoed the president’s comments.

Christ Slattery, president of Expectant Mother Care and leading pro-life activist, called Father Neuhaus «the most influential Roman Catholic in the United States.»

«He was a profound thinker and writer and spokesman for the truths of the Catholic faith,» Slattery said in comments to ZENIT. «He was a long-standing civil rights leader, intellectual, and a fierce pro-life advocate who cannot be replaced and will be sorely missed.

A loss for all

Carl Anderson, the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, called the death of Father Neuhaus “a great loss for people of every faith.”

“Father Neuhaus was a passionate and effective advocate for preserving an honored place for religion in the life of the nation, and one of the most accomplished Catholic intellectuals of our time,” Anderson said on the Web page of the Knights of Columbus.

He added, “Few men have made as great a contribution at a pivotal time our history as Father Richard John Neuhaus.»
William May, senior fellow of the Culture of Life Foundation, praised Father Neuhaus for his «profoundly Christian» writings.

«Long before he became a Catholic I learned much from his writings, so profoundly Christian in nature and challenging philosophically and theologically,» said May. «He thoroughly knew the modern, post-Christian mind and the tragic capitulation of many Christian theologians, Protestant and Catholic both, to a secularized Christianity that had lost its bearings.»

«His courage and brilliance in showing the relevance to authentic Christian thought in the market place inspired many,» he added.


Joseph Bottum, the editor of First Things, announced that a funeral Mass for Father Neuhaus will be celebrated at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in New York on Tuesday at 10 a.m.

A Christian wake service in the form of a Vigil for the Deceased will be celebrated at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m.

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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