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Knights Mourn Death of Cardinal Baum


The members of the Knights of Columbus are deeply saddened by the death of Cardinal William W. Baum, the former Archbishop of Washington and Apostolic Penitentiary Emeritus, who passed away July 23.

Cardinal Baum, a Knight of Columbus for 63 years and a member of the Fourth Degree, received the Order’s highest honor, the Gaudium et Spes Award, in 2001 for his service to the Church and society. Among those present at the awards ceremony in Rome was then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, who offered a tribute to his fellow cardinal.

After conferring the award, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson spoke about Cardinal Baum’s contributions to the Second Vatican Council, which he attended as a theological consultant, noting that the Cardinal “throughout his priestly ministry, [did] so much to implement its teaching.” In his remarks, Cardinal Baum urged Knights to be “defenders of the faith” and courageous in advancing the culture of life.

Hearing of his death, Supreme Knight Anderson said that Cardinal Baum was both a close personal friend and a good friend of the Order. He added, “His life was an unparalleled service to the universal Church and to the Church in the United States, made even more meaningful by his many years of suffering from painful medical conditions.”

Born in 1926, Cardinal Baum was ordained a priest in 1951 for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Missouri), where he served as a pastor, teacher and chancellor of the diocese. In 1970, he was named Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri. Three years later, he was installed as Archbishop of Washington, D.C., where he issued a pastoral letter titled, “The Heresy and Sin of Racism.” Elevated to the College of Cardinals in May 1976, he began serving in the Roman Curia in 1980.

As prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, he oversaw the establishment in 1988 of the Washington, D.C., session of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which is supported by the Knights of Columbus and now occupies McGivney Hall on the campus of The Catholic University of America. He later served at the Vatican as Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which handles issues pertaining to the sacraments and indulgences, from 1990 until his retirement in 2001. In recent years, the Cardinal resided with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, D.C.

At the time of his death, Cardinal Baum was the longest-serving U.S. cardinal in history.