Bernardin's Most Important Year

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the archbishop of Chicago, has announced that the cancer he was treated for in June 1995 has returned. Bernardin has inoperable liver cancer and is not expected to live for more than a year.

Bernardin is considered by many to be the most influential bishop in the United States. Bernardin oversaw the writing of the 1983 peace pastoral, and he has been for years an advocate of a "seamless garment" ethic of life.

Bernardin said his last year may be the most important of his life. He recently launched a campaign to strengthen the Catholic community by building common ground between liberal and conservative Catholics. Saying that "increasing polarization and mean-spiritedness have hindered the kind of dialogue that helps us address our mission and concerns," Bernardin hopes the Catholic Common Ground Project will help heal the widening rift in the American Catholic Church around issues such as abortion, women's ordination, and human sexuality.

On September 9, Bernardin was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton for his work fighting social injustice, poverty, and ignorance, along with his efforts to nurture civility in the church. Bernardin returned to Washington, D.C., on September 12 with other U.S. cardinals to protest presidential support for partial-birth abortions.

"We must systematically address a series of threats to life by building within civil society a shared vision of what human sacredness demands," the National Catholic Reporter quoted him as saying.

Sandy Maben contributed research to this report.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1996
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