John Patrick Foley

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John Patrick Foley
Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
Cardinal John Patrick Foley.jpg
AppointedDecember 22, 2007
Term endedFebruary 12, 2011
PredecessorCarlo Furno
SuccessorEdwin Frederick O'Brien
Other postsCardinal-Deacon of San Sebastiano al Palatino
OrdinationMay 19, 1962
by John Krol
ConsecrationMay 8, 1984
by John Krol
Created cardinalNovember 24, 2007
by Benedict XVI
Personal details
Born(1935-11-11)November 11, 1935
Darby, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedDecember 11, 2011(2011-12-11) (aged 76)
Darby, Pennsylvania, United States
Previous post
MottoAd majorem Dei gloriam
(For the greater glory of God)
Styles of
John Foley
Coat of arms of John Patrick Foley OESSJ.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

John Patrick Foley (November 11, 1935 – December 11, 2011[1][2]) was an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. From 2007 until 2011, he was Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, an order of knighthood under papal protection, having previously served as President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 1984 to 2007. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2007. He provided the commentary for the American television viewers of the Christmas Midnight Mass from St Peter's Basilica, Rome. However, in 2009, he retired from that role after 25 years. The commentary was taken over by Monsignor Thomas Powers of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, an official in the Congregation for Bishops.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Foley's resignation as grand master on February 24, 2011, due to age (on November 11, 2010, the cardinal had turned 75, the age at which all bishops must write a letter to the Pope formally offering to resign) and because of ill health (he was diagnosed in September 2009 with leukemia and anemia). He had led the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for 23 years, from 1984 to June 2007, when he was appointed grand master, and had been a consultor or member of many curial departments. At one time he was editor of The Catholic Standard and Times, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He had met with Pope Benedict XVI on February 10, two days after submitting his resignation letter to the Vatican Secretary of State.


An only child, Foley was born at Fitzgerald-Mercy Hospital[2] in Darby, Pennsylvania, to John and Regina (née Vogt) Foley. He was raised in Sharon Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia, and was a member of Holy Spirit Parish.[3] After graduating from the local parochial school, he attended St. Joseph's Preparatory School from 1949 to 1953, and briefly considered a Jesuit vocation.[4] He later attended St. Joseph's College, where he was elected student-body president in 1956 and obtained a Bachelor's degree summa cum laude in history in 1957. He then studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, earning a Ph.B. in 1958. Foley was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by Archbishop John Krol on May 19, 1962. Foley received his Ph.L. in 1964 from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and his Ph.D. cum laude in Philosophy from the same institution in 1965[5]. The title of his dissertation was Natural Law, Natural Right and the Warren Court. He set a record by receiving his doctorate in philosophy from the University in one year. After returning to Philadelphia he went on to earn a master's degree in journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Foley taught English at Cardinal Dougherty High School, Philadelphia, from 1966–1967. He then served as assistant editor and Rome correspondent for the archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times. From 1970 to 1984 he was the newspaper's editor, and in 1976 he received the honorific title of "monsignor."[6]

Role in the Roman Curia[edit]

On April 5, 1984, Foley was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Titular Archbishop of Neapolis in Proconsulari by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following May 8 from Cardinal Krol, with Bishops Martin Nicholas Lohmuller and Thomas Welsh serving as co-consecrators. As the council's president, he was the longest-serving head of a Curial dicastery until receiving this appointment; Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, former Secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, was appointed as his successor. In 1989, he published a document on Pornography and Violence in the Media.[7]

Foley sat on various organizations, including the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission and National Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Pope Benedict XVI named him as Pro-Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre on June 27, 2007.

Foley was elevated to the College of Cardinals in the consistory at St. Peter's Basilica on November 24, 2007.[8] He was named the Cardinal-Deacon of San Sebastiano al Palatino.[9] He is the seventh priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to be elevated to the cardinalate.[4] He became full Grand Master on December 22, 2007.

On June 12, 2008, in addition to his other duties he was appointed by Benedict as a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples[10] until he was weakened by illness.

On February 12, 2011, he returned to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where he resided at Villa St. Joseph, Darby, Pennsylvania, a home for infirm, retired, or convalescent priests of the archdiocese, until his death on December 11, 2011, from leukemia.[11][12]

The two days of funeral rites began on December 15 with the reception of the body at St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, from which Foley was ordained just shy of a half-century earlier. The daylong viewing in St Martin's Chapel ended with Mass celebrated by the senior auxiliary of Philadelphia, Bishop Daniel Thomas, who was a close friend. The funeral took place the next day in the Philadelphia Cathedral-Basilica where he had been ordained a priest and bishop and in whose crypt he was then buried. In keeping with preferences expressed by Cardinal Foley during his final weeks, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, his successor as head of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, celebrated the liturgy. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York and USCCB president, was the homilist. Both presider and preacher were friends of the deceased cardinal since the times when they headed the Pontifical North American College in Rome.


During his tenure, the archbishop once sparked outrage in the homosexual community by describing the AIDS pandemic as a "natural sanction for certain types of activities."[13]

He also defended his church's exclusively male priesthood, once saying, "Jesus clearly did not ordain women to the priesthood, nor did he authorize the Church to do so."[14] Upon the death of John Paul II on April 2, 2005, Foley and all major Vatican officials, in accord with custom, automatically lost their positions during the sede vacante. He was confirmed as the Council's president by Pope Benedict XVI several weeks later, on April 21.

Personal life[edit]

Foley reportedly would rise every day at 6:00 am to watch CNN, in order to "know what to pray about."[15] Foley was the English liaison for Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to the United States.[16] He was a teetotaler and self-described "chocoholic".[17]


  • He was awarded honorary degrees by St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia (1985); the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales (1990); The Catholic University of America, Washington (1996); Assumption College, Worcester (1997); Regis University, Denver (1998); John Cabot University, Rome (1998); University of Portland (2007); Franciscan University of Steubenville (2010); and Bethlehem University (2011).
  • He was made Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Northern Star (Sweden, 1991), Knight with the Collar of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Holy See, 1991), Grand Cross of the Order of Bernardo O'Higgins (Chile, 1996), and Grand Cross of the Order of the Liberator General San Martin (Argentina, 2003).
  • The Cardinal Foley Center at St. Joseph's University is named after him.[18]


  1. ^ "Whispers in the Loggia: The "Voice" Goes Home – Cardinal Foley Dies at 76". December 11, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Shaw, Russell (December 25, 2011 (print version)). "Cardinal Foley, 'the Voice of Christmas', dies: Forthright, modest and humorous, American prelate was dedicated to Church communications". OSV Newsweekly. Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. Retrieved December 15, 2011. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Holy Spirit Parish Archived April 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b Palmo, Rocco (December 16, 2007). ""Our Cardinal John": Letter from Foleydelphia". Whispers in the Loggia.
  5. ^ Cf. Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, Il Collegio Cardinalizio, Cenni biografici, Foley Card. John Patrick (in Italian)
  6. ^ "John Patrick Cardinal Foley: God's voice dies". Communio. December 11, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  7. ^ "Pornography and Violence". Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  8. ^ "Annuncio di Concistorio per la Creazione di nuovi Cardinali" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. October 17, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Rocco Palmo (November 24, 2007). "Hats and Titles". Whispers in the Loggia. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  10. ^ Foley[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Martin, Douglas (December 12, 2011). "Cardinal John P. Foley, 76, Vatican Spokesman, Dies". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Ailing Cardinal Foley resigns Knights post, retires to Philadelphia". The Catholic Transcript Online. Catholic News Service. February 24, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  13. ^ "I Come as a Pilgrim", Time, June 24, 2001
  14. ^ TIME Magazine. Women: Second-Class Citizens? February 4, 1985
  15. ^ Time. "History As It Happens", January 6, 1992
  16. ^ Whispers in the Loggia. "Seeing Red. Finally.", June 27, 2007
  17. ^ "'Chocoholic' archbishop talks to Nestle execs about advertising", June 25, 2007
  18. ^ "Saint Joseph's University to inaugurate Fr. C. Kevin Gillespie as 27th President". Main Line Media News. Retrieved December 17, 2018.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Andrzej Maria Deskur
President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
Succeeded by
Claudio Maria Celli
Preceded by
Carlo Furno
Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
Succeeded by
Edwin Frederick O'Brien