Friends and Eminences

Cardinals Rigali, Levada followed similar Church paths

By Jim Wogan

The death of Cardinal William J. Levada means the loss of a friend to the Diocese of Knoxville, where Cardinal Levada had visited because of his long friendship with Cardinal Justin Rigali.

Cardinal Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, died Sept. 26 in Rome. He was 83.

Cardinal Levada and Deacon Sean Smith process into Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in April 2015.

Cardinal Levada served as archbishop of Portland, Ore., and archbishop of San Francisco prior to his appointment as the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He was selected by the pope to be his successor in that role, one of the most senior positions at the Vatican. Cardinal Levada served in that role until 2012.

The former archbishop played a visible role in the development of the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, where he participated in the Mass and groundbreaking for the cathedral in April 2015 and then participated in the cathedral dedication Mass in March 2018.

While in Knoxville, Cardinal Levada took part in two diocesan-sponsored events, a “Conversation with the Cardinals,” held at the Tennessee Theatre when ground was broken on the new cathedral, and a second “Conversation with the Cardinals” in the new cathedral on the weekend it was dedicated.

Cardinal Rigali and Cardinal Levada had more in common than their roles in the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia. In an extraordinary occurrence, three young seminarians from Los Angeles near the same age would go on to serve the Church and popes as cardinals: Cardinal Rigali, Cardinal Levada, and Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles.

Cardinal Rigali remembered his friend as news of Cardinal Levada’s death traveled throughout the world Church. The two knew each other for 65 years and were in the seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles together. As friends since that time, Cardinal Rigali said they were associated in many different things.

“It was a great joy to know Cardinal Levada,” Cardinal Rigali said. “We were able to maintain our friendship over the years, and I was at his installation as the archbishop of Portland. I was at his installation as the archbishop of San Francisco. We maintained our friendship and he was a great joy to me over the 65 years that we knew each other. I was at his ordination when he became a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I was at the first Mass he celebrated at the Church of St. Andrew at the Quirinal, and I actually assisted him at that Mass. Fifty years later I was with him again at St. Peter’s Basilica as he celebrated the anniversary of his first Mass. It was 50 years to the day.”

Cardinal Rigali said a look back on Cardinal Levada’s vocation reflects the legacy he will leave based on the work he has done.

“I think you get a good indication of how greatly he was esteemed. Cardinal Ratzinger, who was the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and then was elected pope, after his election, the first major appointment that he made was a successor to himself as the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he chose Cardinal Levada, who was an archbishop at the time. The new pope knew Cardinal Levada because earlier he had worked for him while he was under Cardinal Ratzinger,” recalled Cardinal Rigali, who is archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia and also served as archbishop of St. Louis. He resides in Knoxville.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, first row, second from left, hosted Cardinal William Levada, first row, left, during the Sacred Heart Cathedral dedication.

Cardinal Rigali is grateful to his friend for taking part in Masses and events of historical significance to the Diocese of Knoxville. He remembers how Bishop Richard F. Stika was determined to have Cardinal Levada be a part that history.

“Bishop Stika had really wanted Cardinal Levada to participate in our two ‘Conversations with the Cardinals’ and to also have him here for two significant moments in the history of our diocese. It was nice that he could be here because we were friends from our early years at college seminary in Los Angeles. There were actually three of us that were one year apart in the seminary who eventually became cardinals. Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Levada were both one year behind me. I have known Cardinal Levada for 65 years and Cardinal Mahoney for 69 years,” said Cardinal Rigali, who also is grateful to Cardinal Levada for his priesthood.

“Cardinal Levada was a dedicated servant of the Holy See, but also he was enriched by the great experience that he had as a diocesan bishop. He was an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, he was the archbishop of Portland, he was the archbishop of San Francisco. All of this was a vast experience, and the people who knew Archbishop Levada would recognize him, from a human point of view, as very outgoing. He always had time for you. He excelled at what he did. He was able to bring his pastoral know-how to the service of the Roman Curia,” Cardinal Rigali said about his brother priest and friend.

Cardinal Rigali hopes to attend a funeral Mass for Cardinal Levada on Oct. 24 in San Francisco.

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