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Mausoleum briefly opened on 25th anniversary of Cardinal Bernardin’s death

Cardinal Bernardin

EUGENE GARCIA | AFP

Zelda Caldwell - published on 11/16/21 - updated on 11/16/21

Bernardin is remembered as one of the first U.S. bishops to work to address the problem of clergy sexual abuse of children.

Within the Bishops’ Mausoleum at the Catholic Cemeteries in Chicago are buried eight of the city’s bishops and archbishops. Most days nobody is allowed within the ornately decorated building.

On Sunday it opened its doors to about 50 visitors on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Chicago’s archbishop from 1982 until 1996.

Intricate tile work lines the walls of the mausoleum, and a mosaic of the Last Supper decorates its domed ceiling. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the mausoleum is “so luxurious” that Cardinal Francis George, who died in 2015, chose to be buried near his parents in All Saints Cemetery in Des Plains, Illinois.

Bernardin is remembered as one of the first U.S. bishops to address the problem of clergy sexual abuse of children. As archbishop of the Diocese of Chicago, he adopted a strong, comprehensive policy concerning members of the clergy which served as a model for other dioceses.

He was personally accused of sexual misconduct of a former seminarian. That man later recanted his accusations.

Earlier this year Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the current archbishop of Chicago, recalled Bernardin’s grace after being falsely accused.

Cupich said, “Cardinal Bernardin reached out to his accuser when he recanted, he prayed with the young man as he was dying, and offered him pastoral care and reconciliation. His example speaks powerfully to me today.”

Bernardin was also known for his “Seamless Garment of Life” speech at Georgetown University in 1984, when he talked about the “consistent ethic of life.” That speech was seen as an attempt to place the abortion issue as one among a spectrum of “pro-life” issues, and not of greater importance than other Catholic social justice issues such as capital punishment, just war, and aiding the poor.

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