It may have been the largest gathering of ex cons in the country. Over 600 people packed into the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Baltimore on Monday. It would have made the legendary anti-war and anti-nuclear activist Philip Berrigan proud. It was at his funeral.
He died on Friday at the age of 79. Mourners followed a pickup truck carrying a handmade wooden casket from Jonah House to the church.
The Rev. John Dear offered the two and a half hour mass. Philip’s wife Elizabeth McAlister, a former nun, delivered a Gospel reading about the resurrection of Lazarus. The Rev. Daniel Berrigan, one of four surviving Berrigan brothers, delivered the homily. Brendan Walsh, one of the Catonsville Nine that torched draft records with Berrigan in 1968, gave the eulogy.
Many in attendance were Plowshares activists who have been jailed for committing civil disobedience actions with Berrigan by entering military bases and hammering on nuclear warheads to symbolically disarm them. For his “crimes” Berrigan spent 11 of the past 35 years in prison.
Berrigan wrote a final statement in the days before his death. It was all clear–he had it written in his head. He began dictating a statement the weekend before Thanksgiving. He never finished.
“I die in a community including my family, my beloved wife Elizabeth, three great Dominican nuns–Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert, and Jackie Hudson (emeritus) jailed in Western Colorado–Susan Crane, friends local, national and even international. They have always been a life-line to me. I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself. We have already exploded such weapons in Japan in 1945 and the equivalent of them in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in Afghanistan in 2001. We left a legacy for other people of deadly radioactive isotopes–a prime counterinsurgency measure. For example, the people of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be battling cancer, mostly from depleted uranium, for decades. In addition, our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has saturated the planet with nuclear garbage from testing, from explosions in high altitudes (four of these), from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear weapons factories that can’t be cleaned up–and so on. Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities…”
Today we will hear from historian Howard Zinn and Brendan Walsh of Baltimore Catholic speaking about Philip Berrigan.
- Howard Zinn, retired Boston University professor and author of “A People’s History of the United States”
- Brendan Walsh, gave a eulogy for Philip Berrigan. Walsh is cofounder of Viva House, a Catholic Worker house in Baltimore that operates a soup kitchen, food pantry, and free law clinic.