Monday, October 06, 2008

Remembering "Cookie"

Twenty-five years ago today, Terence James Cooke -- cardinal of Rome, archbishop of his hometown, military ordinary of the United States; social worker, administrative wunderkind, shy, kindly soul believed by many to be a saint -- died at 62 after a two-decade battle with leukemia only revealed at its end.

The Times' lede from the day set the scene thus:
The Rev. Peter Finn, a spokesman for the archdiocese, formally announced at 11:30 A.M., ''Terence Cardinal Cooke, 10th Bishop, 7th Archbishop, 5th Cardinal of the See of New York and Vicar to military service, Veterans Administration hospitals and Government service overseas, completed his work on earth and was called home by Almighty God to heaven this morning at 4:45 A.M.''

At St. Patrick's, the mood was solemn and hushed as a steady stream of saddened worshipers filed into the cathedral after hearing of the Cardinal's death. They prayed, lighted candles and expressed their feelings of loss. Many extolled him as a warm-hearted man whose compassion had touched the city....

President Reagan, who visted the Cardinal Sept. 25, said, ''All of America is saddened by the loss of Cardinal Cooke, a saintly man and a great spiritual leader.''

At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II told the 220 prelates attending a Synod of Bishops session of the Cardinal's death.

''I thank God for his dedicated ministry and pray that the example of his devotion to the church may inspire the faithful for years to come,'' the Pope said.

Mayor Koch ordered the city's flags lowered to half-staff, and Governor Cuomo broadened the order to include the entire state.

Firefighters rang the special 5-5-5-5 alarm on historic fire engine bells to note the Cardinal's death. Normally the alarm, rung on bells in all city firehouses, is reserved for the death of a firefighter in the line of duty. Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Spinnato called the Cardinal ''a good friend of the department.''

The bells sounded for the last time yesterday as the department phased out the old system for summoning firefighters.

When he died, the Cardinal was attended by his physician, Dr. Kevin Cahill, and two nurses. Msgr. Joseph Murphy, the archdiocesan Chancellor, was kneeling in prayer at his bedside.

Church officials said the body of the Cardinal would lie in state at St. Patrick's Cathedral through the weekend, beginning tonight at 6 o'clock. The funeral was scheduled for Monday at 2 P.M. The Columbus Day parade, which would have coincided with the funeral, was canceled....

The Ponfiff was lavish in his praise of Cardinal Cooke when illness confined the Cardinal to his residence.

In response, Cardinal Cooke sent messages to the Pope, including the text of a pastoral letter, scheduled to be read in all parishes on Sunday, in which he continued his role as leader of the church's opposition to abortion.
''It is tragic,'' he wrote, ''that in our time, concepts which are disasterous to the well-being of God's human family - abortion, euthanasia and infanticide - are falsely presented as useful and even respectable solutions to human, family and social problems.

''From the depths of my being, I urge you to reject this antilife, antichild, antihuman view of life and to oppose with all your strength the deadly technologies of life destruction which daily result in the planned death of the innocent and the helpless.''

After the Cardinal was diagnosed as terminally ill in August, he stressed the meaning of life even when burdened by suffering.

''The 'gift of life,' God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental of physical handicaps, loneliness or old age,'' the Cardinal wrote in his pastoral letter.

Cardinal Cooke gave strong allegiance to popes and took an orthodox stance toward church moral and theological teachings. At the same time, his concern for the poor, sharpened by his training as a social worker, inclined him toward advocating projects to help the disadvantaged.

He was thoroughly a New Yorker, an unabashed booster of the city who never lost the traces of Irish speech mannerisms or his socially gregarious urban ways.
Four months after his death, one of Cooke's close collaborators -- his chosen aide for the Military Vicariate, six months in as bishop of Scranton -- was named as his successor.

As previously noted, a memorial liturgy was celebrated this morning in St Patrick's Cathedral by Cardinal Edward Egan, expected to become the first Gotham archbishop ever to retire from the chair sometime within the next six months.