Anthony Bevilacqua

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Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua
Cardinal, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia
AppointedDecember 8, 1987
InstalledFebruary 11, 1988
Term endedJuly 15, 2003
PredecessorJohn Krol
SuccessorJustin Francis Rigali
Other postsCardinal-Priest of Santissimo Redentore e Sant'Alfonso in Via Merulan
OrdinationJune 11, 1949
by Thomas Edmund Molloy
ConsecrationNovember 24, 1980
by Francis Mugavero
Created cardinalJune 28, 1991
by John Paul II
Personal details
Born(1923-06-17)June 17, 1923
Brooklyn, New York
DiedJanuary 31, 2012(2012-01-31) (aged 88)
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
Previous post
Coat of armsAnthony Joseph Bevilacqua's coat of arms
Styles of
Anthony Bevilacqua
Coat of arms of Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeePhiladelphia (emeritus)

Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua (June 17, 1923 – January 31, 2012) was an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1988 to 2003, having previously served as Bishop of Pittsburgh. He was created a cardinal in 1991.


Early life and education[edit]

Bevilacqua was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Luigi (1884–1961) and Maria (née Codella, 1893–1968) Bevilacqua, who were Italian immigrants.[1] One of eleven children, he had four brothers, Michael, Angelo, Rocco, and Frank; and six sisters, Josephine (died of meningitis at age 2), Isabella, Virginia, Mary Jo, Gloria, and Madeline. Bevilacqua's father was born in Spinazzola and worked as a bricklayer, and his mother was born in Calitri. Luigi immigrated to the United States in 1910, and was soon followed by his wife and oldest son, Michael. The family lived in New Rochelle; Hartford, Connecticut; and Brooklyn before settling in Woodhaven, Queens, where Luigi operated a hair dying shop and shoe shine shop.[2]

Bevilacqua attended Public School No. 60, St. Thomas the Apostle School, and Richmond Hill High School. He then studied at Cathedral College, where he won prizes in mathematics and science and earned a trip to Washington, D.C. for an essay on the Immaculate Conception.[2] He graduated from Cathedral College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943, and then entered the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington.[3]

Ordination and ministry[edit]

Ordination history of
Anthony Bevilacqua
Priestly ordination
Ordained byThomas Edmund Molloy
DateJune 11, 1949
PlaceCathedral Basilica of St. James, Brooklyn, New York
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorFrancis Mugavero
Co-consecratorsJohn J. Snyder,
Charles Richard Mulrooney
DateNovember 24, 1980
PlaceBasilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Brooklyn, New York
Elevated byPope John Paul II
DateJune 28, 1991
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Anthony Bevilacqua as principal consecrator
Nicholas C. DattiloJanuary 26, 1990
Edward CullenApril 14, 1994
Robert P. MaginnisMarch 11, 1996
Joseph MartinoMarch 11, 1996
Michael Francis BurbidgeSeptember 5, 2002

Bevilacqua was ordained to the priesthood on June 11, 1949, at St. James Cathedral. He then served as an associate pastor at Sacred Heart Church in (Brooklyn), and St. Mary Church[4] (Long Island) until 1950.[2] He taught at his alma mater of Cathedral College from 1950 to 1954, and then furthered his studies in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, from which he obtained a doctorate in canon law summa cum laude in 1956.[3]

Upon his return to the United States, Bevilacqua served as an official in the diocesan tribunal and as a chaplain to the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood.[2] He earned a Master's degree in political science from Columbia University in 1962, and was named vice-chancellor for the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1965. From 1968 to 1980, Bevilacqua was a visiting professor of canon law at Immaculate Conception Seminary.[3] During this time, he also founded the Diocesan Office for Migration and Refugees in 1971. He earned a civil law degree from St. John's University in 1975.[3] He was admitted to practice law in the courts of New York and Pennsylvania and before the U.S. Supreme Court.[3]

Bevilacqua was raised to the rank of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness on January 23, 1976; he became chancellor of the Diocese that year as well.[5] He remained Chancellor of the Diocese and Director of its Migration and Refugee Office until 1983. From 1977 to 1980, he taught immigration law as an adjunct professor at St. John's University School of Law.[3]

Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn[edit]

On October 7, 1980, Bevilacqua was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, and Titular Bishop of Aquae Albae in Byzacena by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following November 24 from Bishop Francis Mugavero, with Bishops John J. Snyder and Charles Richard Mulrooney serving as co-consecrators, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He selected as his episcopal motto: Ecclesia Mater Nostra, meaning, "The Church, our Mother."[6]

In 1983, Detroit Sister of Mercy Agnes Mary Mansour, who administered Michigan's Medicaid program in her position as the director of Michigan Department of Social Services, was directed by Detroit Archbishop Edmund Szoka to declare her opposition to public financing of abortion.[7] When Mansour refused, Bevilacqua was appointed by the Vatican to demand that she immediately resign either her religious vows or her position as Director of Social Services. Mansour chose to sign the papers Bevilacqua had provided to request dispensation from her perpetual vows, leaving her religious order.[8]

In the early 1980s, as chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs, he led the USCCB through the first phases of implementing the new 1983 Code of Canon Law, making appropriate U.S. adaptations.[9]

Bishop of Pittsburgh[edit]

Bevilacqua was named the tenth Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 7, 1983.[5] He succeeded Vincent Leonard, and was installed as Bishop on December 12 of that year. He was a member of the 1987 world Synod of Bishops, on the role of laity in the church and world.[9]

Archbishop of Philadelphia[edit]

John Paul II appointed Bevilacqua Archbishop of Philadelphia on December 8, 1987. He succeeded Cardinal John Krol, and was installed on February 11, 1988.

He asked Pennsylvania’s governor to fund food stamps for legal immigrants and instituted service centers for Latino and African American Catholics.[10] John Paul II created him Cardinal-Priest of Ss. Redentore e S. Alfonso in Via Merulana in the consistory of June 28, 1991.[11]

During a fifteen-year stewardship of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Bevilacqua is remembered for his frequent visits to churches in the diocese, his knowledge of fiscal matters, his conservatism, and his closing of schools (such as Saint James in Chester). Organizationally he divided the Archdiocese into six vicariates, each with a general vicariate, and subdivided the central administration into six secretariats. From 1995 to 2000, he hosted a live weekly radio call-in program, Live with Cardinal Bevilacqua, which aired on WZZD-AM in Philadelphia. In 2002, he was named to the PoliticsPA "Power 50" list of politically influential personalities.[12]

Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bevilacqua served as chairman of the Committee on Migration from 1983 to 1984, during which time he visited the refugee camps of Southeast Asia and Africa. He also chaired the Committee for Canonical Affairs (1981–1984) and the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Allegations of shielding pedophiles[edit]

In 2005, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office issued a report harshly critical Bevilacqua and his predecessor, Cardinal John Krol, for failing to protect children from sexual abuse by priests.[10]

In 2012, Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was convicted of a count of child endangerment regarding his oversight of now-defrocked priest Edward Avery, who had sexually fondles a twelve year old boy. Lynn was acquitted of conspiracy and a second endangerment count.[13] His lawyers had argued that the case should be thrown out based on a 1994 memo which they said showed that Lynn had informed his superiors and had prepared a list of thirty-five abuse cases for his superiors, which they said Cardinal Bevilacqua had ordered the late Msgr. James Molloy to destroy.[14]

During Lynn's trial it was revealed that in 1996, Msgr. Michael Picard, a local Pastor (St. Andrew Church, Newtown, Pennsylvania), had expressed concerns regarding the assignment to his parish of a priest who had been accused of sexually assaulting a minor in 1982. Bevilacqua, who did not tolerate even the appearance of dissent from his priests, ordered Picard to apologize and spend two weeks on a contemplative retreat. The priest in question, however, was transferred to another parish. The Archdiocese said it had received no complaints about his work in 15 years of service to 3 parishes. That priest died in 2006.[15]

In 1985 Father John O'Connor of the Diocese of Camden in New Jersey was charged with inappropriately touching a 14-year old boy during a sleepover. O'Connor was arrested and wound up in a pretrial intervention program in Toronto, followed by a period of court supervision. After O'Connor's completion of the program, Camden Bishop Guilfoyle asked Bevilacqua if he would take O'Connor. Bevilacqua assigned O'Connor as a hospital chaplain. O'Connor was moved back to the Diocese of Camden in 1993 because his 1984 Cape May County victim had sued and received a settlement.[16]

On August 14, 2018, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report detailing alleged sex abuse in six Pennsylvania Diocese, including Pittsburgh. The report showed a 1985 memo written by that Bevilacqua where he rejected a request to reassign Father Joseph D. Karabin after two children told the Diocese he had sexually molested them. Karabin was not reported to the police, but sent to a treatment center for alcoholism in Maryland. Kept on restricted assignments, in 2002 he was appointed as chaplain at a retirement home. Bishop Wuerl subsequently withdrew Karabin's appointment and priestly faculties.[17]

Retirement and death[edit]

Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 in June 1998, Bevilacqua submitted his letter of resignation to John Paul II, who allowed the Cardinal to continue in his post. He lost the right to participate in a papal conclave when he reached the age of 80 in June 2003. His resignation was later accepted by the Pope on July 15 of that year,[10] and he served as Apostolic Administrator of Philadelphia until the installation of his successor, Justin Francis Rigali, on October 7, 2003.

In retirement, Cardinal Bevilacqua lived at his home on the grounds of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

In February, 2011 it was reported that Cardinal Bevilacqua was suffering from cancer and dementia.[18] In November, 2011, Cardinal Bevilacqua gave a seven-hour deposition in a sealed hearing on the subject of the sexual abuse scandal in the archdiocese. Due to his declining health, his testimony was videotaped.[19] Defense lawyers said the cardinal could no longer recognize the priest who had been his longtime aide.[9]

Cardinal Bevilacqua died on January 31, 2012, at age 88 in his home in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.[20]


  1. ^ "BEVILACQUA, Anthony Joseph". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  2. ^ a b c d "BEVILACQUA Card. Anthony Joseph". Holy See. Archived from the original on 2014-09-09.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Archived from the original on 2007-10-27.
  4. ^ St. Mary Church
  5. ^ a b "Philly cardinal dies ahead of child sex abuse trial", MSNBC news service, February 1, 2012
  6. ^ "Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua". Quotes of the Ordinaries of Philadelphia. Archived from the original on 2013-02-22.
  7. ^ "The Nun vs. the Archbishop". Time. 1983-03-21.
  8. ^ "Obey or Leave". Time. 1983-05-23.
  9. ^ a b c "Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, retired Philadelphia archbishop, dies at age 88", Catholic Star Herald, February 2, 2012
  10. ^ a b c Zucchino, David. "Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua dies at 88; archbishop of Philadelphia", Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2012
  11. ^ "Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua dies at the age of 88", Catholic Philly, February 1, 2012
  12. ^ "Sy Snyder's Power 50". PoliticsPA. The Publius Group. 2002. Archived from the original on 2002-04-21.
  13. ^ Maryclaire Dale (2012-07-24). "Pa. monsignor gets 3-6 years in sex abuse cover-up - Yahoo! News". Retrieved 2012-11-08.
  14. ^ Attorneys: Cardinal ordered memo on priests destroyed
  15. ^ "Evidence: Pa. pastor punished for raising concerns". Fox News. May 2, 2012.
  16. ^ DeRosier, John. "Ex-Vineland priest named in Pennsylvania child sex abuse report", The Press of Atlantic City, august 16, 2018
  17. ^ Vendel, Christine. "Pittsburgh-area priest accused of sex abuse wanted own parish to keep from 'acting out'",, August 14, 2018
  18. ^ "Grand-jury report on abuse targets priests, teacher, even a cardinal". 2011-02-11. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
  19. ^ Bevilacqua also facing a verdict; John P. Martin Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 June 2012
  20. ^ CBS Philadelphia article about death of Bevilacqua Retrieved 2012-02-01 UTC


  • Glenn, Francis A. (1993). Shepherds of the Faith 1843-1993: A Brief History of the Bishops of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh: Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Krol
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Justin Rigali
Preceded by
Vincent Martin Leonard
Bishop of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by
Donald Wuerl
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn
Succeeded by