PITTSBURGH –– Cardinal John P. Foley, a retired Vatican official and former editor of The Catholic Standard & Times in Philadelphia, received a Gabriel Award for lifetime achievement from the Catholic Academy of Communication Arts Professionals June 24.
The award was presented in Pittsburgh where the academy and the Catholic Press Association were holding their joint Catholic Media Convention.
Academy President Frank Morock, who presented the award, said the cardinal, who has worked in all aspects of media during the past 60 years, “has committed his life and his ministry to the promotion of communications for the good of all.” He said it was the first time in 46 years the academy had presented such an award.
The presentation was made at a luncheon ahead of the nighttime presentation of the Gabriel Awards because the cardinal, who has leukemia, could not attend the evening session.
Cardinal Foley, who headed the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican from 1984 to 2007, thanked the academy and noted that the Gabriel Awards were named after the angel who was “the instrument to which the good news was brought to the world.”
He told the Catholic communicators gathered in a ballroom at the Wyndham Grand Hotel that he began writing radio scripts about the lives of the saints when he was in middle school. He first became aware of the academy’s work 50 years ago when he was a seminarian reporting on a Catholic radio convention.
The cardinal spoke of some of the highlights of his radio career, including having to spend two hours on live TV in the Philippines during World Youth Day in 1995 while officials flew Pope John Paul II to the Mass site in a helicopter, since the record crowds had blocked the streets.
Just this year, Cardinal Foley announced he was retiring and resigning from his post as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in Rome, a position he was named to in 2007.
He said his medical condition prevented him from having the energy to perform his duties.
The cardinal returned to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in February and currently resides at Villa St. Joseph, a residence for retired, infirm and convalescent priests in Darby.
At a CPA gala June 23 in Pittsburgh marking that organization’s 100th anniversary, the cardinal told the crowd he was “a relic” for being part of the Catholic press for 51 years.
He stressed the importance of the Catholic press, saying it “continues to have a very important role to play in the work of the church in North America today.”
“Like the crucifix above the bed in every Catholic home, a Catholic publication in the living room or the family room is a continuing reminder of our identity as Catholics,” he said.
After the June 24 luncheon, Morock presented Dan Pitre with the Catholic Academy’s President’s Medallion in recognition of his work in Catholic communications.
Pitre began work with The Southern Cross in San Diego in 1973 and worked in Catholic communication in San Bernardino, Calif., and Arlington, Va., before being named public relations director of Family Theater Productions in Hollywood, Calif., in 1992, a position he held for nearly two decades. Pitre currently works as a freelancer and consultant.
He greeted the communications luncheon via Skype.
“It’s great to have you right here in my living room,” he joked.