Terence Cooke

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Terence James Cooke

Cardinal, Archbishop of New York
Cooke in 1983
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
SeeNew York
AppointedMarch 2, 1968
InstalledApril 4, 1968
Term endedOctober 6, 1983
PredecessorFrancis Spellman
SuccessorJohn Joseph O'Connor
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo
Vicar Apostolic for the United States Armed Forces
OrdinationDecember 1, 1945
by Francis Spellman
ConsecrationDecember 13, 1965
by Francis Spellman
Created cardinalApril 28, 1969
by Pope Paul VI
Personal details
Born(1921-03-01)March 1, 1921
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
DiedOctober 6, 1983(1983-10-06) (aged 62)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
BuriedSt. Patrick's Cathedral (New York)
Nationality American
ParentsMichael Cooke & Margaret Gannon
Previous post(s)
MottoFiat Voluntas Tua (Thy Will Be Done)
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Title as SaintServant of God
AttributesCardinal's attire
Ordination history
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byFrancis Spellman
DateDecember 13, 1965
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Terence Cooke as principal consecrator
Martin Joseph Neylon, S.J.February 2, 1970
Patrick Vincent AhernMarch 19, 1970
Edward Dennis HeadMarch 19, 1970
James Patrick MahoneySeptember 15, 1972
Anthony Francis MesticeMarch 5, 1973
James Jerome KilleenDecember 13, 1975
Howard James HubbardMarch 27, 1977
Theodore Edgar McCarrickJune 29, 1977
Austin Bernard VaughanJune 29, 1977
Francisco GarmendiaJune 29, 1977
Joseph Thomas O'KeefeSeptember 8, 1982
Emerson John MooreSeptember 8, 1982
Joseph Thomas DiminoMay 10, 1983
Francis Xavier RoqueMay 10, 1983
Lawrence Joyce KenneyMay 10, 1983
Styles of
Terence Cooke
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Terence James Cooke (March 1, 1921 – October 6, 1983) was an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of New York from 1968 until his death, quietly battling leukemia throughout his tenure. He was named a cardinal in 1969. Cooke previously served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York from 1965 to 1967.

Nine years after his death, Cooke was designated a Servant of God, the first step in the process that may lead to beatification and then canonization as a saint.


Early life[edit]

The youngest of three children, Terence Cooke was born in New York City to Michael and Margaret (née Gannon) Cooke.[1] His parents were both from County Galway, Ireland, and named their son after Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork who died on a hunger strike during the Irish War of Independence.[2] Michael Cooke worked as a chauffeur and construction worker.[3] At age five, Terence and his family moved from Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to the northeast Bronx. Following his mother's death in 1930, his aunt Mary Gannon helped raise him and his siblings.[2]

After expressing an early interest in the priesthood, in 1934 Cooke entered Manhattan's Cathedral College, the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. In 1940, he entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, New York.[2]


Cooke was ordained a priest by Archbishop Francis Spellman on December 1, 1945.[1] Cooke then served as chaplain for St. Agatha's Home for Children in Nanuet, New York,[4] until 1947, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue graduate studies at The Catholic University of America. He obtained a Master of Social Work degree in 1949.[2]

When he returned to New York, Cooke was assigned to serve as a curate at St. Athanasius Parish in the Bronx, while working with the Catholic Youth Organization.[5] In 1954 he was appointed executive director of the Youth Division of Catholic Charities and procurator of St. Joseph's Seminary. In 1957 he was appointed by Cardinal Spellman to be his secretary, a position he held until 1965. Cooke was named a monsignor on August 13, 1957, and vice-chancellor for the archdiocese in 1958, rising to full chancellor in 1961.[1]

Auxiliary Bishop of New York[edit]

On September 15, 1965, Pope Paul VI appointed Cooke as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York and titular bishop of Summa. He received his episcopal consecration on December 13 1965 from Cardinal Spellman at St. Patrick's Cathedral, with Archbishops Joseph McGucken and John Maguire serving as co-consecrators.[6] Cooke selected as his episcopal motto: Fiat Voluntas Tua, meaning, "Thy Will Be Done" from Luke 1:38.[4]

Cooke played a prominent role in arranging Pope Paul's visit to New York in October 1965,[3] and became Vicar General of the Archdiocese two days after his consecration, on December 15, 1965. He was diagnosed with acute myelomonocytic leukemia, a form of cancer, that year as well.[4][7]

Archbishop of New York[edit]

Following Spellman's death in December 1967, Pope Paul named Cooke as the seventh Archbishop of New York on March 2, 1968.[6]

Pope Paul's selection of Cooke came as a surprise; likely contenders for the post included Fulton J. Sheen, a television personality and Bishop of Rochester; and Archbishop Maguire, who had been Spellman's coadjutor but did not hold the right to succession.[3] In addition to his duties in New York, Cooke was named Vicar Apostolic for the U.S. Military on April 4 1968 and was installed in both positions at St. Patrick's Cathedral.[6]

That same day as Cooke's installation, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, leading to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 100 cities. Cooke went to Harlem that evening to plead for racial peace[2] and later attended King's funeral.[8] After the assassination of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on June 6, 1968, Cooke led the funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral; months later, he baptized Kennedy's youngest child, Rory Kennedy.[9]

On January 20, 1969, Cooke delivered the benediction at the inauguration of President Richard Nixon.

After the first meeting between Church and Freemasonry which had been held on 11 April 1969 at the convent of the Divine Master in Ariccia, he was the protagonist of a series of public handshakes between high prelates of the Roman Catholic Church and the heads of Freemasonry.[10]

Cooke helped implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the archdiocese, and adopted a more collegial management style than his predecessor Spellman.[11] Pope Paul VI appointed him as Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Rome (the traditional titular church of the New York archbishops starting in 1946) in the consistory of April 28, 1969.[6] At the time of his elevation, Cooke was the second-youngest member of the College of Cardinals after Cardinal Alfred Bengsch, who was six months younger. Cooke was theologically conservative but described himself as progressive in secular matters.[3]

During his tenure as archbishop, Cooke founded the Birthright organization, which provides counseling and other support for pregnant women; the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which provides financial aid for Catholic-school students; an Archdiocesan Housing Development Program, providing housing to New York's disadvantaged; Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper; and nine nursing homes.[4] In 1974, Cooke went to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he attended lectures on the Second Vatican Council given by his future successor, Father Edward Egan.[12]

Cooke was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, respectively. In 1979, Cooke separately hosted the Dalai Lama[13] and Pope John Paul II at St. Patrick's Cathedral.


Cooke's leukemia, first diagnosed in 1965, was deemed terminal in 1975,[4] and he was on almost constant chemotherapy for the last five years of his life.[14] In late August 1983, he announced his illness to the public, saying that he was expected to live for a few more months but would not resign his post.[7] In an open letter completed only days before his death, he wrote, "The gift of life, God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age."[11]

On October 6, 1983, Cooke died from leukemia at age 62 at his episcopal residence in Manhattan, New York City. He is interred in the crypt under the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral.[1][15]


On April 5, 1984, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Cooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[16] In 1988, he posthumously received the F. Sadlier Dinger Award from the publisher William H. Sadlier, Inc., for his contributions to religious education.[17]


During his years as archbishop, Cooke received honorary degrees from at least four Catholic colleges: College of New Rochelle (1968),[18] College of Mount Saint Vincent (1968),[19] Boston College (1969),[20] and Marymount Manhattan College (1978).[21] He also received the James Cardinal Gibbons Medal (1979) from his alma mater, Catholic University of America.[22]

At least seven buildings in the Archdiocese of New York have been named in his honor:

Cause for canonization[edit]

Soon after Cooke died in 1983, a movement emerged to canonize him as a saint. In 1984, with the support of Cooke's successor, Archbishop (and future cardinal) John O'Connor, the Cardinal Cooke Guild was established. In 1992, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially designated Cooke as a Servant of God, the first step in the process that leads to beatification and then canonization as a saint. On April 14, 2010, the Guild and senior American clergy presented Pope Benedict XVI with the positio, the documentation of the cardinal's life, work, and virtues. The document was then filed with the Congregation for Causes, to be examined by theologians.[30] If the document is approved, Cooke will receive the title of Venerable, the second step leading to sainthood.

Father Benedict Groeschel was the postulator for the cause while it was in its initial stages in New York. After the process was accepted by the Holy See, Andrea Ambrosi served as postulator until his retirement in 2021.[4] He was replaced by Dr. Angelica Ambrosi.[31] As of January 22, 2022, the canonization process is still ongoing.


Foreign relations[edit]

An anti-Communist, Cooke opposed the majority of his fellow bishops when he spoke out against nuclear disarmament in 1982.[11] He once stated that deterrence was not satisfactory or safe, but could be considered morally "tolerable".[32] During a 1968 Central Park anti-war rally by Coretta Scott King he organized a small counter demonstration in support of the Vietnam War.[33]

Cooke, opposed to the militant policies of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, remained inside St. Patrick's Cathedral during the 1983 St. Patrick's Day Parade, until the grand marshal, Irish activist Michael Flannery, had passed by. Flannery was an outspoken supporter of the IRA.[34]

Abortion rights[edit]

Cooke was an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, which he called the "slaughter of the innocent unborn",[35] and once served as chairman of the USCCB's Pro-Life Committee.

LGBT rights[edit]

Cooke initiated the formation of Courage International, a ministry that promotes chastity for gay and lesbian Catholics.[36]

Traditional values[edit]

Cooke supported the Cursillo Movement, Christian Family Movement, and Charismatic Renewal, and was instrumental in bringing the Missionaries of Charity to New York.[4] Cooke once described actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly as "a lesson in Catholic motherhood".[37]


  1. ^ a b c d Miranda, Salvador. "COOKE, Terence James". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Terence Cardinal Cooke (1921–83)". All for Mary – American Saints. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d "Succession to Spellman". TIME Magazine. March 15, 1968. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Who was Terence Cardinal Cooke?". Terence Cardinal Cooke – Cause for Canonization. Archived from the original on January 25, 2009.
  5. ^ Shelley, Thomas J. (2007). The Bicentennial History of the Archdiocese of New York, 1808–2008. p. 580.
  6. ^ a b c d "Terence James Cardinal Cooke". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
  7. ^ a b "Milestones". TIME Magazine. September 5, 1983. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008.
  8. ^ "Saintly Shepherd". Catholic New York. March 9, 2003. Archived from the original on June 20, 2006.
  9. ^ "People". TIME Magazine. January 24, 1969. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  10. ^ Sandro Magister (August 19, 1999). "Tra il papa e il massone non c'è comunione" [There is no communion between the pope and the Mason] (in Italian). L'Espresso.
  11. ^ a b c "Milestones". TIME Magazine. October 17, 1983. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008.
  12. ^ "Great Tribute". Catholic New York. October 9, 2008.
  13. ^ "I Am a Human Being: a Monk". TIME Magazine. September 17, 1979. Archived from the original on October 15, 2010.
  14. ^ Treaster, Joseph B. (October 5, 1983). "Cardinal Cooke 'Close to Death'". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Powers, Ron (October 6, 1983). "Cardinal Cooke dies of leukemia". The Day. (New London, Connecticut). Associated Press. p. 1.
  16. ^ Presidential Medal of Freedom Archived April 23, 2021, at the Wayback Machine, The White House, p. 52.
  17. ^ The F. Sadlier Dinger Award, William H. Sadlier, Inc.
  18. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients Archived January 19, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, College of New Rochelle.
  19. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients, College of Mount Saint Vincent.
  20. ^ Honorary Degrees Awarded, Boston College.
  21. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients, Marymount Manhattan College.
  22. ^ James Cardinal Gibbons Medalists, Catholic University of America.
  23. ^ Terence Cardinal Cooke Catholic Center Archived April 3, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, Archdiocese of New York.
  24. ^ Terence Cardinal Cooke–Cathedral Library, New York Public Library.
  25. ^ Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center, ArchCare.
  26. ^ Cooke: Special Education School & Services, Cooke School & Institute.
  27. ^ Beacon of Hope House: Terence Cardinal Cooke Residence, East Bronx, Perceptions For People With Disabilities.
  28. ^ Cardinal Cooke Residence, Spring Valley, Manta Media.
  29. ^ Dedication of the Cardinal Cooke Centre[permanent dead link], Church of Saint Clare.
  30. ^ Wooden, Cindy (April 14, 2010). "Report for late New York cardinal's sainthood cause presented to pope". Catholic News Service.[dead link]
  31. ^ "New Postulators for Holy Cross Causes of Saints // News // Congregation of Holy Cross". holycrosscongregation.org. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  32. ^ "Battling the Bomb in Church". TIME Magazine. January 4, 1982. Archived from the original on March 8, 2008.
  33. ^ Kurlansky, Mark (2004). 1968 : the year that rocked the world (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-45581-9. OCLC 53929433.
  34. ^ Byrne, James, Philip Coleman, and Jason King. Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2008. 826. Print.
  35. ^ "Abortion on Demand". TIME Magazine. January 29, 1973. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008.
  36. ^ "Father Harvey Tribute". Courage International. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  37. ^ "The Princess From Hollywood". TIME Magazine. September 27, 1982. Archived from the original on June 9, 2010.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
See Created
Titular Bishop of Summa
1965 – 1968
Succeeded by
Daniel Liston, C.S.Sp
Preceded by Vicar Apostolic for the Military Services
1968 – 1983
Succeeded by
Archbishop of New York
1968 – 1983
Succeeded by
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo
1969 – 1983