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Andrew T. Walther, President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, died Sunday from complications related to leukemia, EWTN announced today. Walther, who had begun his new position with the global Catholic television network on June 1, died in New Haven, Connecticut and was 45.
Walther joined EWTN after a 15-year career at the Knights of Columbus. He died on All Saints Day, just one day after the beatification of Fr. Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights. Fr. McGivney’s cause for canonization is one to which he was especially devoted.
Shortly before he passed away, as a Fr. McGivney Festival was underway at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, a relic of the newly-beatified priest was placed on his chest and those in the hospital room sang the Salve Regina, according to Catholic News Agency.
“Andrew joined EWTN in June of this year and though he had only been in his role for a short time, he had already accomplished much,” said Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN Global Catholic Network, in a statement. “Despite being diagnosed with leukemia shortly after taking the position at EWTN, he worked tirelessly throughout the course of his treatment. Unfortunately, his condition took a rapid turn for the worse in the past few days. His death is a great loss to EWTN and to the Church.”
In his role as president of EWTN’s news division, Walther oversaw the network’s news media platforms. The division’s holdings include Catholic News Agency, the National Catholic Register, the ACI group, ChurchPop and EWTN’s lineup of television and radio news programming.
Born in California on November 30, 1974, he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Classics at the University of Southern California. He also taught writing there for several years, and was recognized with the university’s Excellency in Teaching Award.
Walther began his Catholic media career as a journalist writing for the National Catholic Register two decades ago.
“I was privileged to see Andrew Walther’s career from the start,” former Register editor Tom Hoopes, who is now Vice President for College Relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, told Aleteia. “I reached out to him to become a ‘stringer’ at the National Catholic Register. He had a knack for finding stories that were both intriguing and instructive about the Catholic faith. … It seemed like he could do anything, and before long I was meeting him on the executive floor of the Knights of Columbus building. Jesus Christ and his Church have lost a friendly and effective leader in America.”
Walther began with the Knights of Columbus in 2005, and his last position was vice president for communications and strategic planning. During his tenure, he helped launch the Knights’ modern communications department overseeing work with Catholic and secular media outlets, the launch of social media channels and video production, and the organization’s global media work, especially in Europe and the Middle East. He was also heavily involved in the organization’s charitable work and disaster relief initiatives.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement that Walther “contributed much to the Order’s activities throughout his career. Andrew’s efforts were integral to the Supreme Council’s initiatives, from developing our communications program to coordinating our outreach to persecuted Christians in the Middle East and now Africa. Andrew led the Guadalupe Celebration in Los Angeles in 2009 and the ‘Love and Life Site’ at World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011.”
Walther organized and led the Knights’ work on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, traveling to Iraq several times and successfully leading a public effort to have the Islamic State group’s campaign of persecution declared “genocide” by Secretary of State John Kerry.
His advocacy for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities helped shape policy in both the Obama and Trump administrations, and he also helped play a role in forging a bipartisan legislative consensus on behalf of persecuted Christians and other victims of ISIS. Walther’s efforts included working with other governments and the United Nations as well as with Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders to end violence and persecution and bring relief to persecuted communities.
Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, tweeted today, “My prayers & great sympathy to the family of Mr Andrew Walter RIP. A true friend to the persecuted , destitute Christians, the sick & poor, not only in Iraq but worldwide in his role for Knights of Columbus. Thank you Andrew for all that you did for us: it will not be forgotten.”
“Andrew’s contribution to highlighting the issue of persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East, was really incalculable,” Fr. Benedict Kiley, founder of the advocacy organization Nasarean.org, told Aleteia. “In his work with the K of C he focused the attention of American Catholics on the suffering in Iraq and organized massive help. ... He was a man of great intellect and deep faith; his illness only strengthened that faith.”
“Andrew’s passing is a great loss to the American Catholic Church,” Ed Clancy of Aid to the Church in Need told Aleteia. “Because of our work together helping Iraqi Christians, I got to know Andrew better. He was a unwavering supporter of the Faith and tireless coworker in helping the Iraqi Christian community.”
Walther also oversaw the Knights’ polling and book publishing operations, which included several New York Times best sellers. Together with his wife, Maureen, he co-authored The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History, a book released this year.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow at the National Review Institute, commented in an email to Aleteia, “There were so many good things that happened successfully because of Andrew. He was most comfortable and effective behind the scenes and was just beginning a new stage as a more public face. I trust God knows what he’s doing but the loss of Andrew is devastating.
“Persecuted Christians had no greater friend in the world,” Lopez continue. “God put them on his heart as a mission, and Andrew was faithfully obedient. He was constantly advising people in the Church and in government and just about everywhere else. He had a brilliant mind and used it at the service of God. His faith was real and deep and he was ready to die if that was God’s will, but he was also fighting.”
Lopez added that her last conversations with Walther were “forward looking.”
“There was always a next plan and project,” she said. “There were books he was going to write, problems he was going to fix. … Andrew didn’t waste time; he used every moment well, working through chemo and a bone marrow transplant. He is what Christian manhood looks like. He loved. His love wasn’t sentimental; it was self-sacrificial. He poured himself out for God and his projects.”
At the time of his appointment to EWTN, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a longtime member of EWTN’s board of governors, said in a statement, “Andrew Walther has been a good friend and a trusted colleague for many years. Andrew is one of the Church’s finest strategic thinkers and a highly respected advocate for international religious liberty.”
Walther is survived by his wife, whom he married in 2010, and four young children.