The day Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was buried, I was representing the U.S. Bishops Conference in South Africa. I deeply regretted missing the funeral of a bishop who had become a mentor and friend. As we met with leaders of church and government in South Africa, it sometimes seemed like Chicago. So many shared their remembrances of Cardinal Bernardin and their sense of loss. How could someone touch so many so far away?
Bernardin, the PBS documentary produced by Frank Frost and Martin Doblmeier, helps answer that question. In an age when ecclesial leaders face so many doubts and challenges, Cardinal Bernardin opened hearts and minds by the way he lived and died, served and led. Most people know him for his dignified response to false charges of sexual misconduct and for the faithful way he lived with and died from cancer. This production places both these struggles in a broader and deeper context of personal faith and public ministry.
This is not an easy task. The producers had no special access or final interview. But they have pulled together from photos, news clips, and interviews an hourlong biography that is admiring and accurate, rich in detail, and sweeping in its coverage of Cardinal Bernardins life and ministry.