With a Funeral Mass that drew dozens of bishops and cardinals, hundreds of priests, and more than 1,000 lay people, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said farewell Friday to one of its favorite sons, Cardinal John Patrick Foley.
A priest of the archdiocese who served 27 years at the Vatican but remained famously devoted to Philadelphia, Foley died Sunday at age 76 after a long bout with leukemia and anemia.
"Never did he stop talking about and bragging about this Archdiocese of Philadelphia - as much as we begged him to," Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City said to laughter in his homily.
The funeral followed Foley's lying in state Thursday at the chapel of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, and Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. He was entombed in a crypt beneath the basilica's main altar, among 10 of the archdiocese's previous bishops and archbishops.
At 1:30 p.m., the bronze casket was closed and draped with a cream-and-gold pall. Minutes later, the priests and bishops began a solemn procession into the sanctuary.
Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, Foley's successor as grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, was the principal celebrant. "We offer this eucharist in thanks for the life of John Patrick," said O'Brien, adding that Foley's "zealous evangelizing presented Christ by word, deed, and example."
In 1984, after teaching philosophy at the seminary and editing the archdiocesan newspaper, Foley left Philadelphia to serve as first president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican. The council is charged with explaining church teachings on morality and social justice to electronic media.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him grand master of the Holy Sepulchre order, which raises funds for the care of Christian sites in the Holy Land.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal delegate to the United States, read a letter from Benedict expressing "heartfelt condolences" to the archdiocese and citing Foley's "distinguished service" to the Holy See.
Among the church leaders in attendance was Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, who retired in July. Active and retired cardinals from Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, and Rome were also present. Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who preceded Rigali as archbishop and is in poor health, did not attend.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the current archbishop, concelebrated at the consecration but stayed mostly to the side of the altar. O'Brien sat in the wood-and-velvet chair normally reserved for the archbishop.
Dolan's homily was brief. He began by recounting how he had been reading from a prayer book Sunday when he received a call from Rigali telling him of Foley's death early that morning.
When he returned to the prayer book, he said, the next line was from St. Augustine. "John is the voice," it read, "but the Lord is the Word. . . . John is the voice that lasts but for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives forever."
Dolan went on to say that Foley - whom he described as "remarkably lovable, simple, humble, wise, and holy" - always saw his role as in service to Christ.
Foley's life is an example of keeping Jesus' incarnation alive in his own ministry, said Dolan, "and what an appealing nature" it was.
"I once told him, 'John, if I did not know for a fact you were a teetotaler, I'd swear you had a couple of shots . . . before breakfast every morning.' "
In an apparent reference to the difficulties the archdiocese will face next year - a sex abuse trial, school closings, decisions on 27 priests under internal investigation for possible misconduct with children - he said that any diocese that can turn out "such a noble, gentle man . . . is a church which can endure and come out even stronger."
After communion and closing prayers, Chaput briefly recalled "our good friend and brother" as a kindly mentor to young bishops visiting Rome, including himself.
Chaput then called on the archdiocese's young priests and seminarians to emulate Foley - a "pioneer in evangelization" who used the media to spread the gospel and Catholic teaching.
About 3:20 p.m., the Mass ended and pallbearers carried the casket to the altar and placed it on a bier. A small gathering of bishops, family and friends then escorted it around the right side of the altar and into the crypt.
Prayers, incensing, and sprinkles of holy water followed. The casket was lifted and placed in a marble-faced tomb, about shoulder-high in the crypt - a scene broadcast into the sanctuary on closed-circuit TV.
The Rite of Committal lasted 20 minutes, after which the clergy recessed to "How Great Thou Art," a favorite of Foley's that he chose for his farewell.