The Influence of

His Eminence John Cardinal Krol, D.D., J.C.D.

Tenth Ordinary and Sixth Archbishop of Philadelphia

On February 11, 1961, the most turbulent era in the history of Catholic Philadelphia began when

Pope John XXIII appointed the Most Reverend John Joseph Krol, Titular Bishop of Cadi and

Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland, as the Tenth Ordinary and Sixth Archbishop of Philadelphia. His

appointment was a great surprise, for many reasons. One was his age: he was 50, which is pretty

young for a head of a large Archdiocese, especially the fourth largest in the country. Another was

his rank: to go from being an Auxiliary Bishop to an Archbishop is a huge leap, and the new

Archbishop himself was the greatest skeptic when it comes to his appointment. "Have you been

out in the sun too long?" was his first reaction to Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, the Apostolic

Delegate, who gave Krol the news. Well, apparently, the Delegate wasn't (and the sun didn't shine

so bright during February in Washington). What followed was 27 years of strong leadership and

doctrine, coming directly from the Vatican and taught by the tall Pole who occupied the great

wooden cathedra (throne) at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. (His last name

means King in Polish and that's what he was). His Eminence used his influence as the head

of 1.6 million Catholics to get legislation passed or vetoed, Federal aid and anything else

that was for the good of the souls entrusted to his care, which is the job of the Bishop as

the Chief Shepherd of his territory. That influence is to be the focus of this paper: local,

national, international, but above all, the politics involved within the Catholic Church.

Only when one knows the story of his childhood and meteoric rise through the hierarchy

of the Church can the greatest appreciation be had for this saintly "King" and his efforts.

John Joseph Krol was born on October 26, 1910 in Cleveland, Ohio, the fourth of eight

children of John and Anna Krol, Polish immigrants who came to this country to make a

decent living for themselves. At the age of two, young John and his family moved back to

Poland, a time he would later remember vaguely but which was the start of a love for his

ancestral homeland that would bring him back many more times over the course of his life.

Upon his return to Cleveland, the future Cardinal went to the school at St. Hyacinth's

Parish, a working class parish of poor Polish families not unlike his own. Even at a young

age, when students who knew only Polish couldn't comprehend what was being taught

them, John translated. Fitting for a man who would one day be the master of seven

languages.

For a time in his late teens, he worked in the meat department of a local grocery store,

eventually rising to become manager of the meat department when a Protestant colleague

asked him four questions about the Catholic faith that Krol didn't know the answers

to. He said he would look for the answers. Instead of answers, he found more

questions for himself and after further study, he sensed a calling to the priesthood.

In 1931, he enrolled in the seminary, during which time he became an entrepreneur by

buying defective cigars and selling them to his fellow seminarians wholesale. A classmate,

Paul Hallinan, who became the first Archbishop of Atlanta in 1962, one year after Cardinal

Krol's promotion to Philadelphia, later said, "if John Krol did not become a priest, he

would have been a millionaire". He was ordained on February 20, 1937. "Even though

many undreamed of advancements lay ahead, his priestly ordination, Cardinal Krol would

say, 'was my greatest honor'."

For a year, he fulfilled his sacerdotal aspiration by being a parish priest. But he was

sent to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to study Canon (Church)

Law. When he returned to Cleveland, he was assigned to the chancery and not long after,

Pope Pius XII appointed him Titular Bishop of Cadi and Auxiliary to Archbishop

Edward Francis Hoban, Archbishop-Bishop of Cleveland, who was, literally father figure

and mentor to his young chancellor. He was consecrated on September 2, 1953, by

Archbishop Amleto Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States and another close

friend of Bishop Krol. Eight years later, soon after the announcement of the Second

Vatican Council, the appointment to Philadelphia came. But his first task was the

impending Council. He was appointed one of the five undersecretaries, the men who

literally ran the Council. So for the first five years of his time in Philadelphia, the

Ecumenical Council was the top item on the agenda.

When he returned, the full impact of the then-Archbishop hit the people. Politics was a

main concern. The cultural revolution was in full swing and many pieces of legislation

contrary to the moral law and the magisterium (teachings) of the Catholic Church were

on the table in Harrisburg in Washington, among other places. In Harrisburg, a phone call

from Cardinal Krol to Catholic legislators gathered at the back of the State House

chamber before a controversial vote giving their marching orders were commonplace,

especially with regards to contraception in the 60's and abortion in the 70's and 80's. His

political influence was rarely seen, but to quote a priest who knew of how the Cardinal

worked, at his death, "he wanted to make history, not headlines".

But when his political influence was seen, either protesting the nuclear arms race or

testifying to the Senate on the SALT II Treaty, he brought history and headlines with

him. This was extremely true during his years (1971-74) as President of the National

Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference, the decision

making and political bodies that interpret the teachings of Rome here in the U.S. Also,

during this time, he gave the invocation at two Republican National Conventions, was

invited to conduct one of the weekly Sunday prayer services at the White House during

the Nixon Administration, and was created a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church by

Pope Paul VI on June 26, 1967 in Rome.

Among the high powered friends he made from this time were four Presidents: Johnson,

Nixon, Ford, Regan and Frank Rizzo, the former Mayor and a devout Catholic, with

whom the Cardinal often dined and shared many religious views with.

A Cardinal's chief duty is to elect a new Pope when the Pope dies. This procedure is

called Conclave, or with key, because the Cardinals are locked in the Vatican's Sistine

Chapel until the new Pope has been elected. This is one of the most political processes in

the Church, if not the most political, because at least 2/3 plus one of the 120 Cardinals

must agree on one choice, which requires a lot of politicking and persuasion, not to

mention prayer. Cardinal Krol participated in two conclaves, and it was here that his

reputation as a politician probably shone. But the world will never know for certain,

because the Cardinals are sworn to secrecy once they are locked away under

Michelangelo's "Last Judgment".

Another thing rumored, but not confirmed, is that Cardinal Krol was the key player in

having a fellow Pole and a very close friend, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, Archbishop of

Cracow elected as Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978, the first Pope from behind the

Iron Curtain and the first non-Italian elected to the Chair of Peter in 455 years.

Circumstantial evidence can all but prove this. For one thing: the Pope's first American

stop was in Philadelphia; second, Cardinal Krol knew his friend was going somewhere in

the Church and so he invited Cardinal Wojtyla to give the keynote address at the 41st

Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976 and third, many Philadelphians were given

exalted status in the Church during the pontificate of John Paul II. (Cases in point: John

Cardinal O'Connor, the Archbishop of New York, who was born and raised in West

Philadelphia and Archbishop John P. Foley, a former editor of the Catholic Standard and

Times, the Archdiocesan newspaper and a native of Sharon Hill, who in 1984 became the

President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Vatican office that runs

all media operations affiliated with the Holy See.)

In accordance with Canon Law, His Eminence submitted his resignation as Archbishop

of Philadelphia on his 75th Birthday, October 26, 1985, but, as is his custom, his friend the

Pope refused it until it was absolutely necessary. And that time came on December 8,

1987 when Cardinal Krol made the following statement: "It is a pleasure to confirm the

announcement that effective February 11, 1988, the 27th anniversary of my appointment,

my tenure as governing bishop of the Church of Philadelphia will be terminated and the

Most Reverend Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua of Pittsburgh will assume the office of

Archbishop of Philadelphia". Cardinal Krol was 77, the senior Churchman of the

United States, a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Archbishop of Philadelphia, a

bishop, a priest, a shepherd, and a long way from a "Butcher Boy" in Cleveland.

On the day when he formally gave up his jurisdiction on February 11, 1988, the

transfer of power was sealed when he handed his crozier, the large staff that symbolized

the shepherd's authority, to his successor and cleared the path to the cathedra from which that

successor, Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, Seventh Archbishop of Philadelphia, would watch over

and teach the flock that was now entrusted to his care. His Eminence became

Archbishop-Emeritus of Philadelphia, retired after 27 years of service to it's 1.4 million Catholics.

While retired, Cardinal Krol lived to see the fall of Communism, a goal near and dear

to him, especially in his beloved Poland, where for years he had gone and brought food for

the people, supplies for the churches that were forced underground due to the Communist

reign of terror and broadcasted on Radio Free Europe in the Polish he spoke so well. He

lived for another historic moment: when in 1991 his successor, Anthony Bevilacqua, was

named to the College of Cardinals, Pope John Paul II took the rare step of elevating a

bishop to the Sacred College while his Cardinalatial predecessor still lived. It was the first

time this ever happened in America and the number of times it has happened elsewhere can

be counted on one hand. This can be attributed to the great respect and esteem that the

Vatican has for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, by giving this high honor to both

Cardinal Krol and Cardinal Bevilacqua.

After eight years of retirement, but still active as the head of the Papal Foundation, a

board dedicated to helping the Vatican with regards to financial matters, John Cardinal

Krol died in the early morning hours of March 3, 1996, on the Feast of Blessed Katherine

Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who founded an order of nuns that provided assistance to

Blacks and Indians and whose cause for canonization (Sainthood) was one of the things

that Cardinal Krol devoted himself to in his last years as Archbishop of Philadelphia. He

now lies in eternal peace among his predecessors, the Bishops and Archbishops of

Philadelphia, in a crypt at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

"And finally, we all thank John Cardinal Krol himself, for his legacy of obedience to his

God and King, of faithfulness to his Church and it's Supreme Pontiff, and of the shepherd's

care to the flock that was entrusted to him for 27 years. With sure and certain hope we

rejoice that the Chief Shepherd has welcomed him and bestowed on him the crown of

unfading glory".

-His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, D.D., J.C.D., J.D.

Archbishop of Philadelphia

Funeral of His Eminence John Cardinal Krol, D.D., J.C.D. Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia

March 8, 1996


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Mail the author Rocco Palmo -rpalmo@village.ios.com