Monday, December 12, 2011

For "His Foleyness," A Friday Farewell

Putting the punctuation mark on a surreal year that had already qualified as the end of an era 'round these parts, the Funeral Mass for John Cardinal Foley will take place on Friday at 2pm in the Philadelphia Cathedral-Basilica where he was ordained a priest and bishop, culminating with his burial in its crypt.

In keeping with preferences expressed by the longtime Vatican "Voice" during his final weeks, Foley's successor as head of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, is to celebrate the liturgy. The USCCB president, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, will be the homilist. Both presider and preacher are friends of the cardinal, dating to the duo's respective stints in Rome at the helm of the Pontifical North American College.

The shape of a delegation from the Holy See is still taking form, but Foley's successor as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, is said to be attempting to make the trip.

All of it understood to be open to the public, the two days of funeral rites begin Thursday with a 9am Reception of the Body at St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, from which the cardinal was ordained just shy of a half-century ago. A daylong viewing in St Martin's Chapel will end with a 7pm Mass celebrated by the senior auxiliary of Philadelphia, Bishop Daniel Thomas, another close Foley friend.

A professor at St Charles until his 1984 appointment to the Curia, the seminary established an academic chair in homiletics and social communications in Foley's honor last month; a national search is being conducted for the post's first occupant. Prior to his move in retirement to Villa St Joseph, the seminary remained the cardinal's hometown base thanks to a room he had been permitted to keep there while in Vatican service.

Following a midmorning cortege transferring Foley's casket to the Cathedral, a final lying in-state will be held there from 10am to 1.30pm.

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Comprised of 48 vaults, the crypt of Saints Peter and Paul has been the final resting place of Philadelphia's bishops and archbishops since 1869, when the first two ordinaries were reinterred in the space under the High Altar.

In total, seven of the ten deceased heads of the River City church are now buried in the twin Carrara marble walls. As for the exceptions, Francis Kenrick (Third Bishop, 1842-51) -- the cathedral's originator, and the first prominent American prelate of Irish birth -- was transferred to the archbishopric of Baltimore and buried in the crypt of its then-Cathedral of the Assumption at his 1863 death; his successor, St John Neumann (1852-60), chose to be placed with his Redemptorist confreres at their base under St Peter's church, where his shrine is today, and as a former president of Notre Dame and Holy Cross priest, Cardinal John O'Hara (Fifth Archbishop, 1952-60) wished to be returned there, and now rests in a side-chapel of the university's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, upon which a bouquet of roses are laid every Monday morning.

Foley will be the fourth cardinal interred in the hometown crypt. He won't, however, be the first Curial chief among them -- another native son, Cardinal Francis Brennan became the first American to serve as Dean of the Roman Rota in 1959.

Born in the upstate coal country that would be split off in 1961 to form the diocese of Allentown, Brennan died a year after his 1967 elevation to the Pope's "Senate" at age 74.

Notably, unlike most other American cathedrals where cardinals served or are buried, no red galeros hang from the ceiling of Philadelphia's mother church.

To be sure, they once did... so the legend goes, though, the reason behind their half-century absence involves John Krol and a fit of pique.