The funeral Mass for Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was celebrated Tuesday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Center City Philadelphia.
Bevilacqua’s close friend and former aide, Monsignor Louis D’Addezio, delivered the memorial sermon. He cited the cardinal’s commitment to the most vulnerable in society — especially the young, the old and the sick.
He also mentioned the emotional toll that recent sex-abuse allegations had on Bevilacqua — noting the cardinal’s depression late in his life.
“These years have been years of suffering for so many — for all of us in the archdiocese,” he said. “Cardinal Bevilacqua did not escape that suffering.”
Bevilacqua’s association with recent sexual-abuse allegations has left many Catholics trying to make sense of his legacy.
Jack McGreevey visited the cathedral Tuesday morning to pay his respects.
“I was often told a person’s life is like a tapestry. If you go up close, you might see some skipped stitches, and I think that’s true of all of us,” McGreevey said. “Basically, he was a very good man. He may have made some mistakes but, on balance, I think he had a good life.”
Pat Saybolt of Resurrection Parish in Northeast Philadelphia echoed that sentiment while offering her sympathy for the archdiocese’s sex-abuse victims.
“I don’t really know how everything evolved, but I think his heart was always good,” she said. “And if mistakes were made, he’s probably praying for those victims now.”
Bevilacqua was never officially charged in a sex-abuse case, but his tenure as archdiocesan leader covered a time when many allegations against the city’s priests were generated.
One of his former aides, Monsignor William Lynn, is currently facing trial for failing to prevent sexual abuse by others. Lynn has claimed that he was following orders.
Concluding the service, the casket was taken into a special crypt below the basilica’s altar. Bevilacqua will rest there alongside seven other former Philadelphia bishops and archbishops.
Bevilacqua served as leader of Philadelphia Catholics from 1988 to 2003. He died in his sleep last week at the age of 88 after long battles with dementia and cancer.