Cardinal Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, 88, died in his sleep Tuesday night at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he had been living since his 2003 retirement. (
According to his biography on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website, Cardinal Bevilacqua was born June 17, 1923, in Brooklyn, NY. He was one of Maria and Luigi Bevilacqua’s 11 children.
He was ordained a priest in 1949, and also received his doctorate in canon law in 1956 and a degree in civil law in 1975, according to his biography.
He had recently been plagued by health issues, including cancer and dementia.
Installed as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1988, Cardinal Bevilacqua led the area’s 1-million-plus Catholics for more than 15 years.
Perkiomen Valley parishes and are part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
St. Eleanor’s current pastor, the Rev. Msgr. Patrick Sweeney, remembers Cardinal Bevilacqua in part because “he was my ordinary bishop and appointed me to pastor positions at St. Anne in Port Richmond in 1998 and St. Eleanor’s in 2003.”
“He was a very energetic bishop who went around diocese and was a very (outgoing) person,” Sweeney said, describing Cardinal Bevilacqua as “an extrovert.” “He reached out to people.”
Sweeney recalled being one of the priests in 1996 the Cardinal asked to come hold vigil as retired Cardinal John Krol lay dying. Sweeney said he “prayed the rosary and kept vigil so he wouldn’t be alone.” He left around 1:30 a.m., March 3, and Cardinal Krol died about an hour later, Sweeney said.
Cardinal Bevilacqua was “proud he was a successor of the bishop St. John Neumann,” Sweeney said. He also acknowledged the Cardinal’s efforts in the canonization of then-Blessed Katharine Drexel as well as his work with pro-life and immigration issues.
In the last several years, Cardinal Bevilacqua has faced criticism as two grand jury reports have detailed reports of the sexual abuse of children – and subsequent cover-ups – within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
When Perkiomen Valley Patch asked Facebook followers for comments regarding Cardinal Bevilacqua, both responses touched on the abuse scandal:
• The defense team for the archdiocese had their wishes come true today. I suspect that the thought of having to testify and having his dignity impugned is what actually killed him. Let me add that I received all of my education from elementary schools through a doctoral degree from Catholic institutions, if the church is losing me then who does it have? (Gene Halus)
• Very convienient. (sic) I know priests aren't supposed to commit suicide, but then, they aren't supposed to harbor child rapists either. (Chris Haney)
Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina on Monday morning “reaffirmed her ruling that the former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is competent to testify in the trial of three priests accused of sexually abusing young boys,” according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article.
Funeral arrangements for Cardinal Bevilacqua are pending, according to a Catholic News Service article.
In the local area, Sweeney said “(for Catholic Schools Week), we have a school Mass and children will participate, and we will be sure to include his intention in our prayers for the souls departed. (We will also) thank him for his service and years he was archbishop.”