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As in his life, all welcomed at Cardinal Keeler’s funeral Mass

29 Mar 2017 – By Erik Zygmont

BALTIMORE (CNS) — Mourners from near and far, and all walks of life and various creeds, filled the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland March 28 for the funeral Mass of Cardinal William H. Keeler, 14th archbishop of Baltimore.

Thirty prelates, including six cardinals, and dozens of priests and deacons mourned Cardinal Keeler, who died March 23 at 86, and commended his soul to God.

Dignitaries and officials came to pay their respects, including Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, retired U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and State Sen. James “Ed” DeGrange Sr.

In his closing remarks, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori ranked Cardinal Keeler among the most illustrious of his predecessors, including Archbishop John Carroll, the nation’s first archbishop, Cardinal James Gibbons (1877-1921) and Cardinal Lawrence Shehan (1961-1974).

While he was a churchman of the highest stature, to be sure many came to Cardinal Keeler’s funeral to remember a man who had simply never forgotten them.

“He always remembered who I was and what church I came from,” said Jo Anne Harris, mother of Father Raymond Harris, who was ordained by Cardinal Keeler and now is pastor of Holy Family Parish in Randallstown. “You would always get a smile and a handshake, and you knew it wasn’t phony. It was from the heart.”

Sheila Peter, a cathedral parishioner, remembered bringing her son, Tommy, then 10, to see Cardinal Keeler in the sacristy after a Good Friday veneration of the cross.

“I said, ‘Here’s a big fan of yours,’ and the cardinal held his (zucchetto) over Tommy’s head and we took a picture,” she told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet.

In his homily, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York described the “indefatigable, friendly, ever-unflappable gentleman of faith, William Cardinal Keeler,” who took to heart a bit of advice to priests from St. John Paul II:

“Love for Jesus and his church must be the passion of your life.”

“He not only knew the quote, he lived it and radiated it,” Cardinal Dolan said.

He and others acknowledged that Cardinal Keeler’s passion overflowed, particularly in the ecumenical and interreligious arena.

When he stepped down as moderator for Jewish affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a position that included co-chairing key dialogue between the two faiths, Cardinal Keeler asked Cardinal Dolan to take over, the latter recalled.

“I had rehearsed my ‘No,’ having just arrived in New York and obviously preoccupied, but he described the dialogue with such zeal and excitement, it sounded like he was inviting me to a game at Camden Yards, with all the cold beer and hotdogs, kosher, I could eat,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Cardinal Keeler’s “zeal and excitement” for working with the Jewish community was reciprocated.

Before the funeral Mass, Rabbi Abie I. Ingber, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University in Cincinnati, reflected on what the cardinal had meant to him.

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