VATICAN CITY — Benedict XVI had a special response to Mother Angelica’s death falling on Easter Sunday: “It’s a gift.”
Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, told CNA about the pope emeritus’ comment on March 28.
Mother Angelica, an Ohio-born Poor Clare nun, founded EWTN Global Catholic Network in Alabama in 1981. It has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She passed away on March 27, Easter Sunday, at the age of 92.
Her death prompted memorials, eulogies and remembrances from around the world.
In Rome, Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, pledged that he would pray for the repose of her soul. Many other priests, religious and laity in Rome are praying for her.
And Vatican Radio covered her passing.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said Mother Angelica was an “extraordinary woman, devout believer and media pioneer.”
“Mother Angelica reflected the Gospel commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), and like the best evangelists, she used the communications tools of her time to make this happen,” he said March 28. “She displayed a unique capacity for mission and showed the world once again the vital contribution of women religious.”
Archbishop Kurtz praised Mother Angelica’s role in founding EWTN, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Knights of the Holy Eucharist.
“Her work, begun in the cloister, reached across the globe. She was a convincing sign as to how even the humblest of beginnings can yield abundant fruit.”
Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, remembered the nun as “a shining example of courage and faith.”
“We mourn her loss, but her legacy lives on in EWTN and in the lives of all those she touched,” Arriaga said.
The Becket Fund is defending EWTN in its legal fight against the federal government’s requirement that its insurance coverage include drugs and procedures that violate the Catholic faith and morals, including provision of drugs that can cause abortions. Refusal to comply could result in heavy fines. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June could impact the fate of Mother Angelica’s network.
Other Catholic bishops reflected on the nun’s life.
“In founding and growing EWTN into a major media resource for the global Church, she achieved things almost everyone thought impossible,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a past EWTN board member, said March 27. “She will be sorely missed, but she has left us an ongoing gift in the men and women who continue the great service of the EWTN apostolate.”
Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary of Los Angeles, remembered Mother Angelica as “one of the most significant figures in the post-conciliar Catholic Church in America.” She was “the most watched and most effective Catholic evangelizer of the last fifty years.”
He said that, during the 1980s and 90s, some of her critics mocked her as a “crude popularizer,” an “arch-conservative” and a “culture warrior.”
“And yet while her critics have largely faded away, her impact and influence are uncontestable. Against all odds and expectations, she created an evangelical vehicle without equal in the history of the Catholic Church.”
Bishop Barron praised Mother Angelica for “her trust in God’s providence, her keen sense of the supernatural quality of religion, and her conviction that suffering is of salvific value.” He lauded her emphasis on prayer, liturgy, the sacraments, the saints, Eucharistic adoration and spiritual warfare.
“Mother endured tremendous suffering, both physical and psychological, most of her life, and she appreciated these trials as opportunities for spiritual growth,” he said.
The bishop granted that Mother Angelica would have recognized she was not perfect. Sometimes her comments were “insufficiently nuanced and balanced,” while her “hot temper” could lead her to characterize her opponents unfairly.
However, the bishop said Mother Angelica will have “a very honored place” in Catholic history.
Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, the diocese where EWTN is headquartered, said Mother Angelica was a pioneer in using the media as a force for good.
“Mother Angelica has left the Church and world a great legacy through her Eternal Word Television Network and family, which have brought a multitude of people closer to the Lord and his Church,” he continued.
“How providential that her death occurred on Easter Sunday, our celebration of Our Lord’s victory over sin, suffering and death!”