PHILADELPHIA – Cardinal John Foley, who for 25 years was the voice for American viewers of the Vatican’s Christmas Midnight Mass and who led an ancient Catholic order in the Holy Land, died Sunday. He was 76.
Foley died at the Villa St. Joseph in suburban Darby, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said. The cause of death was not given.
In 1984, Foley was appointed to lead the Pontifical Council of Social Communications, which spearheaded Vatican initiatives under the media-savvy Pope John Paul II to get out the church’s message through the media.
In a world of prelates who were often ill at ease when speaking with journalists, or who used convoluted phrases to express a concept, Foley’s down-to-earth, straightforward manner of engaging with the public was a refreshing departure.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi described Foley as being a man “truly of great spiritual level.”
“He incarnated, in the best way, the friendly, open, attentive relationship of the Church in the world of social communications, not so much as an ‘impersonal’ world, but as a world of persons,” Lombardi told Vatican Radio.
“He understood and encouraged our work with all his heart,” said Lombardi, who also directs Vatican Radio.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI named Foley the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The order supports schools, health institutions and serves basic needs for the poorest people of all faiths in the region.