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Terence Cooke

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His Eminence 
Terence James Cooke
Cardinal Archbishop of New York
Terence Cooke.jpg
See New York
Enthroned April 4, 1968
Reign ended October 6, 1983
Predecessor Francis Spellman
Successor John Joseph O'Connor
Ordination December 1, 1945
Consecration December 13, 1965
Created Cardinal April 28, 1969
Other Auxiliary Bishop of New York (1965-68)
Personal details
Born March 1, 1921(1921-03-01)
New York, New York
Died October 6, 1983 (aged 62)
New York, New York
Buried St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York

Terence James Cooke (March 1, 1921 – October 6, 1983) was an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of New York from 1968 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1969.

Early life and education

The youngest of three children, Terence Cooke was born in New York City to Michael and Margaret (née Gannon) Cooke.[1] His parents were both from County Galway, Ireland, and named their son after Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork who died on a hunger strike during the Irish War of Independence.[2] His father also worked as a chauffeur and construction worker.[3] At age 5, he and his family moved from Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to the northeast Bronx. Following his mother's death in 1930, his aunt helped raise him and his siblings.[2]

Cooke, after expressing an early interest in the priesthood, entered the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of New York in 1934. In 1940, he entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers.[2]


Cooke was ordained a priest by Archbishop Francis Spellman on December 1, 1945.[1] He then did pastoral work in the Bronx, and served as a chaplain at St. Agatha’s Home for Children[4] until 1947. He then pursued his graduate studies in social work at the University of Chicago and at the Catholic University of America, from where he obtained a Master's degree in 1949.[2]

From 1949 to 1954, Cooke taught at Fordham University's School of Social Service.[2] He was appointed director of the Youth Division of Catholic Charities and procurator of St. Joseph's Seminary in 1954.[1] In 1957, he was chosen by Cardinal Spellman to be his secretary, a position in which he remained until 1965.[1] Cooke was named a Privy Chamberlain of His Holiness on August 13, 1957, and Vice-Chancellor for the Archdiocese in 1958, rising to full Chancellor in 1961.[1]


On September 15, 1965, Cooke was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of New York and Titular Bishop of Summa by Pope Paul VI.[5] He received his episcopal consecration on the following December 13 from Cardinal Spellman, with Archbishops Joseph Thomas McGucken and John Joseph Maguire serving as co-consecrators, at St. Patrick's Cathedral.[5] He selected as his episcopal motto: Fiat Voluntas Tua, meaning, "Thy Will Be Done" (Luke 1:38).[4]

He played a prominent role in arranging Paul VI's visit to New York in October[3], and became vicar general of the Archdiocese two days after his consecration, on December 15, 1965. He was diagnosed with acute myelomonocytic leukemia, a form of cancer, that year as well.[4][6]

Archbishop of New York

Styles of
Terence Cooke
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See New York

Following the death of Cardinal Spellman in December 1967, Cooke was named the seventh Archbishop of New York on March 2, 1968.[5]

His appointment came as a surprise; likely contenders for the post included Fulton J. Sheen, a television personality and Bishop of Rochester, and Archbishop Maguire, who had been Spellman's coadjutor but did not hold the right to succession.[3] In addition to his duties in New York, he was named Vicar Apostolic for the U.S. Military on April 4, and was installed in both positions at St. Patrick's Cathedral.[5]

That same day, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, leading to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 100 cities. In response, Cooke went to Harlem to plea for racial peace[2] and later attended King's funeral.[7] He baptized Rory Kennedy.[8]

Cooke helped implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the Archdiocese, and adopted a more conciliatory managerial style than his predecessor, Cardinal Spellman.[9] Pope Paul VI created him Cardinal Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (the traditional titular church of the New York archbishops) in the consistory of April 28, 1969.[5] At the time of his elevation, he was the second youngest member of the College of Cardinals after Alfred Bengsch, who was six months younger than Cooke. Cooke was theologically conservative but progressive in secular matters.[3]

During his tenure as Archbishop, he founded nine nursing homes; Birthright, which offers women alternatives to abortion; ; the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which provides financial aid for inner-city Catholic schools; an Archdiocesan Housing Development Program, providing housing to New York's disadvantaged; and the Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper.[4] In 1974, he went to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he attended lectures on the Second Vatican Council given by his future successor, Edward Egan.[10] His leukemia was deemed terminal in 1975.[4]

Cooke was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, respectively. In 1979, he received the Dalai Lama at St. Patrick's Cathedral.[9] He became a member of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See on May 31, 1981.

Illness and death

In late August 1983, Cooke revealed his illness to the public; he announced that he was expected to live for a few more months, but would not resign his post.[6] He was on almost constant chemotherapy for the last five years of his life.[11] In an open letter completed only days before his death, he wrote, "The gift of life, God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age."[9]

Cooke died from his battle with leukemia in his episcopal residence[1], at age 62. He is interred in the crypt under the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral.


Cause for Canonization

Cardinal Cooke was widely regarded as a holy person by many New Yorkers during his episcopal ministry as Archbishop of New York, and soon after his death in 1983, a movement to canonize him as a saint began. In 1984, with the support of Cooke's successor, Archbishop (and future Cardinal) John Joseph O'Connor, the Cardinal Cooke Guild was established. In 1992, the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially designated Cardinal Cooke as a Servant of God, a first step in the canonization process that leads to beatification and then canonization as a saint. Rev. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, is the postulator for the cause.


Relations with the Soviet Union

An anti-Communist, he opposed the majority of his fellow bishops when he spoke out against nuclear disarmament in 1982.[9] He once stated that deterrence was not satisfactory or safe, but could be considered morally "tolerable".[12]


He was an outspoken opponent of abortion, which he called the "slaughter of the innocent unborn,"[13] and once served as chairman of the Bishops' Pro-life Committee.


He was the founder of Courage International, a ministry that promotes chastity for gay and lesbian Catholics

Church movements

Cooke supported the Cursillo Movement, Christian Family Movement, and Charismatic Renewal, and was instrumental in bringing the Missionaries of Charity to New York.[4]

Irish Republican Army

Cooke, opposed to the militant policies of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, remained inside St. Patrick's Cathedral during the 1983 St. Patrick's Day Parade, because the grand marshal was a supporter of the IRA.[11][not in citation given]

Grace Kelly

He once described Grace Kelly as "a lesson in Catholic motherhood."[14]

Episcopal succession

Template:Infobox Episcopal Succession/bishopconsecrated11Template:Infobox Episcopal Succession/bishopconsecrated12Template:Infobox Episcopal Succession/bishopconsecrated13Template:Infobox Episcopal Succession/bishopconsecrated14Template:Infobox Episcopal Succession/bishopconsecrated15
Episcopal Lineage
Consecrated by: Francis Spellman
Date of consecration: December 13, 1965
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Martin Joseph Neylon February 2, 1970
Patrick Vincent Ahern March 19, 1970
Edward Dennis Head March 19, 1970
James Patrick Mahoney September 15, 1972
Anthony Francis Mestice March 5, 1973
James Jerome Killeen December 13, 1975
Howard James Hubbard March 27, 1977
Theodore Edgar McCarrick June 29, 1977
Austin Bernard Vaughan June 29, 1977
Francisco Garmendia Ayestarán June 29, 1977


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Miranda, Salvador. "COOKE, Terence James". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Terence Cardinal Cooke (1921-83)". All for Mary - American Saints. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Succession to Spellman". TIME Magazine. 1968-03-15.,9171,838030,00.html. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "Who was Terence Cardinal Cooke?". Terence Cardinal Cooke - Cause for Canonization. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Terence James Cardinal Cook". 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Milestones". TIME Magazine. 1983-09-05.,9171,926165,00.html. 
  7. "Saintly Shepherd". Catholic New York. 2003-03-09. 
  8. TIME Magazine. 1969-01-24.,9171,900566-1,00.html. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 ""I Am a Human Being: a Monk"". TIME Magazine. 1979-09-17.,9171,920681,00.html. 
  10. "Great Tribute". Catholic New York. 2008-10-09. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Treaster, Joseph B. (1983-10-05). "Cardinal Cooke 'Close to Death'". The New York Times. 
  12. "Battling the Bomb in Church". TIME Magazine. 1982-01-04.,9171,953291,00.html. 
  13. "Abortion on Demand". TIME Magazine. 1973-01-29.,9171,903771-2,00.html. 
  14. "The Princess From Hollywood". TIME Magazine. 1982-09-27.,9171,925734-3,00.html. 

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Francis Spellman
Archbishop of New York
1968 – 1983
Succeeded by
John Joseph O'Connor
Archbishop for the Military Services
1968 – 1983
Succeeded by
John Joseph Thomas Ryan

Template:ArchbishopsofNYla:Terentius Iacobus Cookeno:Terence James Cooke

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