VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal John Patrick Foley, retired grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, died on Sunday morning at the age of 76.
Benedict XVI today expressed his prayer that the cardinal’s service to communication would inspire others to take up this apostolate, “so essential to the proclamation of the Gospel and the progress of the new evangelization.”
The Pope’s telegram was addressed to Archbishop Charles Chaput, the current archbishop of Philadelphia, the cardinal’s home diocese.
“As I recall with gratitude the late cardinal’s years of priestly ministry in his beloved archdiocese of Philadelphia, his distinguished service to the Holy See as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and most recently his labors on behalf of the Christian communities of the Holy Land, I willingly join you in commending his noble soul to God, the Father of all mercies,” the Holy Father said.
He added, “I also pray that his lifelong commitment to the Church’s presence in the media will inspire others to take up this apostolate so essential to the proclamation of the Gospel and the progress of the new evangelization.”
John Patrick Foley was ordained a priest on May 19, 1962, an archbishop on May 8, 1984, and elevated to the College of Cardinals on Nov. 24, 2007. He died at Villa St. Joseph in Darby, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal John Foley,” said Archbishop Chaput, according to a press release issued by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“Cardinal Foley was a man of great apostolic energy. Anyone who met him was immediately aware of his intense love for the Church and his zeal for communicating the Gospel,” the archbishop added. “By the sheer force of his personality, he drew people to the faith and to himself. I was pleased that he was able to come home during the final months of his life. No matter where he lived or how he served the Church over the years, he always considered Philadelphia his home.”
Archbishop Chaput continued, “His charisma and gentle spirit will be sorely missed throughout the Universal Church. May God grant him the gift of eternal life, and give peace and consolation to all those who loved, admired, and respected him.”
In 1984, Father Foley was named an Archbishop by Pope John Paul II and appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He carried out this role for 23 years.
He was also for many the voice of Rome’s Christmas Mass. For 25 years, beginning in 1984, he provided commentary for American television viewers of the Christmas Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
On June 17, 2007, Benedict XVI named him grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a group which lends spiritual and financial support to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land and helps maintain Christian shrines in that region.
Benedict XVI elevated then-Archbishop Foley to the cardinalate at a Consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 24, 2007, and named him Cardinal-Deacon of the Church of San Sebastiano al Palatino in Rome. He was the seventh priest ordained for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to be elevated to the College of Cardinals.