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Former Vatican communications head and Mideast advocate dead at 76


DARBY (CNS): John Cardinal Foley of the United States of America (US), the head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 1984 to 2007 and later active on the desk for the Church in the Middle East, died on December 11 after a battle with leukaemia. He was 76-years-old. 

Cardinal Foley was noted for his media-friendly style and quick sense of humour. He often spoke of the joys of working for the Church, saying that while the pay often is not great “the benefits are out of this world.” 

Last February, he retired from his post as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the chivalric organisation dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land. 

Speaking to the 2010 Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, the cardinal expressed his conviction that “continued tension between the Israelis and the Palestinians has contributed greatly to the turmoil in all of the Middle East and also to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism.”

He said, “While many, including the Holy See, have suggested a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the more time passes, the more difficult such a solution becomes, as the building of Israeli settlements and Israeli-controlled infrastructure in East Jerusalem and in other parts of the West Bank make increasingly difficult the development of a viable and integral Palestinian state.” 

He told participants at a US-based conference on the Holy Land in 2009, “The most tragic thing I have seen is the miles-long wall that separates Jerusalem from Bethlehem, and separates families and keeps farmers from the land that has been in their families for generations. It is humiliating and distressing.” 

The cardinal said he understood Israel’s need for security, but added, “Many of these measures raise serious human rights issues that they refuse to acknowledge and address.” 

To many, Cardinal Foley’s was the voice they heard giving commentary during the pope’s Christmas midnight Mass. For 25 years, beginning in 1984, his voice was heard not only in north America, but also Asia, Africa, Europe and, for many years, Australia. 

He told the Catholic News Service in 2007 that he always tried to take “a positive approach toward the means of communication and toward the people who run them.” 

For decades he helped media gain access to cover or rebroadcast Vatican events. 

The cardinal took the lead in articulating Catholic policy with regard to the media. Under his leadership, the social communications council issued documents on ethical standards in advertising, communications and the Internet. It also produced a document denouncing pornography.

He helped launch the first Catholic programme bank for broadcasters and encouraged efforts to narrow the digital divide separating countries with widespread access to the Internet and those with almost none, either because of poverty or government efforts to restrict access to information. ......


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