Bishop Walter Sullivan, A Passion for Peace

By Duane Shank 12-12-2012

Bishop Walter Sullivan, former head of the Catholic diocese of Richmond, Virginia, has died at the age of 84.

In the movement against nuclear weapons in the 1980s and 90s, I met and worked with a number of Catholic bishops. The then-named National Conference of Catholic Bishops had issued a pastoral letter in 1983 opposing nuclear weapons, The Challenge of Peace, which became a model for other denominations. The bishop I knew best was Bishop Sullivan, who served as bishop-president of Pax Christi, the Catholic peace organization, for more than 10 years. He was also committed to people in poverty, and was a featured speaker at the first conference of Call to Renewal in September 1995. It is prophetic voices such as his that we badly need today. I was blessed to have known him.      

The National Catholic Reporter has an obituary worth reading:

“One of the celebrated "Jadot bishops," meaning progressive American prelates appointed under Pope Paul VI during the 1970s, Walter Sullivan led the Richmond, Va., diocese for almost 30 years, and from that perch became one of the country's premier "peace bishops," denouncing armed conflict from Vietnam and the Cold War all the way up to Iraq.

"He just could not reconcile war and Christianity," said Phyllis Theroux, a Virginia-based author whose biography of Sullivan, The Good Bishop, is scheduled to appear from Orbis Books in May.

"He once said that as far as I'm concerned, you can take the whole 'just war' tradition and stick it in a drawer and lock it up," she said, adding that Sullivan believed the idea of a just war had been "abused" by both clergy and politicians.

“Bishop Walter Sullivan died Tuesday as a result of an inoperable liver cancer after he returned to his Richmond home from a local hospital. He was 84.”

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