Cardinal Krol Laid To Rest At Cathedral Hundreds Of Family And Friends Turned Out For A Solemn Ceremony. The Procession To The Altar Took Nearly 30 Minutes.

Posted: March 10, 1996

The snow was still coming, the cutting teeth of a harsh winter wind slashing at everything in sight, when Sister Mary Rosita Brennan stepped from a taxi in front of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul to begin the long, slow goodbye to her dear old friend.

It would be three more hours before the cathedral organ would sound the processional hymn signaling the start of the solemn funeral Mass and Rite of Committal with final commendation for Cardinal John Krol.

But Sister Mary Rosita had come from Newark, where a sudden storm had turned the roadways into an icy agony. Befriended by the cardinal during her 18 years as a nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital, the Felician nun had taken an early train to Philadelphia. Chosen to read the New Testament lesson, she did not want to be late keeping her last appointment with ``my dear friend.''

``It is a great sadness to know that I will never see him again on this Earth,'' she said. ``But I truly believe that I will see him again in heaven.''

In a magnificent ceremony, Cardinal Krol - former archbishop of Philadelphia and a stalwart of the Roman Catholic Church - was laid to rest Friday beneath the cathedral.

Cardinal Krol died last Sunday at 85 after a long illness. He was archbishop of Philadelphia from 1961 until his retirement in 1988.

Concelebrating his solemn Mass of Christian Burial with Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua were seven other cardinals, 13 archbishops, 50 bishops and more than 700 priests and monsignors, all in robes of white trimmed in red or gold.

Led by deacons bearing candles, incense, a Bible and a patriarchal cross, the solemn procession to the altar lasted nearly half an hour.

Before the canopied altar lay the body of Cardinal Krol, facing his congregation, the tradition for priests.

He wore a white miter and ecru-and-gold chasuble. In his hands was a black rosary; at his feet was his red biretta, or three-cornered hat.

Priests and deacons sat in the pews. Prelates took seats in the sanctuary, and Cardinal Bevilacqua, wearing his miter and bearing a wood crosier, sat tall in the altar's ornate episcopal chair, or cathedra.

And then, in a foreshadowing of the solemn entombment two hours away, all watched grimly as the lid to Cardinal Krol's coffin was closed. At eight minutes past noon, the Funeral Mass began.

Public dignitaries in the pews included U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, former Gov. Robert Casey, Mayor Rendell and several members of Congress. Gov. Ridge heard Mass in the cardinal's honor Wednesday.

Representing Pope John Paul II was Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, his successor as archbishop of Krakow.

Cardinal Bevilacqua extended the regrets, for health reasons, of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, the only American cardinal who did not attend.

After prayers and hymns came a reading from Job 19: `` . . . I know my Redeemer lives . . . '' Then Sister Mary Rosita read from Paul, Romans 5: `` . . . We also rejoice in God through Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.''

Then a seminarian brought a brass censer to the cardinal, who spooned powdered incense onto the glowing brazier within it.

As the seminarian rocked the censer on a long chain, sending plumes of rosemary-scented smoke out over the congregation, he led a young priest bearing a book of Gospels to the marble pulpit.

`` . . . Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day, . . .'' chanted the priest, from the Gospel of John 6.

And then, without censer or ceremony, a stocky man of 76, who described himself as a ``boy from a little rowhouse in Philadelphia,'' climbed the steps to the pulpit.

He was Cardinal John O'Connor, now the archbishop of New York.

Although the media stress the power and influence Cardinal Krol enjoyed in his long tenure as prelate, ``those who knew this great churchman as a human being knew that any such concept of power was in his mind but dust and ashes,'' Cardinal O'Connor said.

He recalled the last time he saw his old friend, lying on his deathbed last Saturday evening, hours from death. Weak, barely able to smile, unable to raise his hand in blessing, Cardinal Krol had reminded him then of Christ on the cross.

``It was when He was utterly helpless, pinned to the cross, unable to move, that He was infinitely powerful. John Joseph Krol, famous cardinal of the church . . . now lay completely helpless on his deathbed, united in the helplessness of Christ.''

Cardinal O'Connor went on to say that he met with Pope John Paul II in Rome at midweek and that as the two septuagenarians recalled their old friend, they pondered their own mortality. ``He is 10 years older than you and I,'' the Pope said with a chuckle.

After thanking and offering condolences to the many clergy and lay members who had helped ease Cardinal Krol's suffering and loneliness in old age, Cardinal O'Connor speculated that it was Blessed Katharine Drexel herself, whose beatification Cardinal Krol had championed, who ``took him by the hand at 1:10 in the morning'' and escorted him from this life.

``So your wish was granted, good friend, butcher boy and churchman. We will miss you. Pray for us. Pray for us,'' Cardinal O'Connor said.

He then joined the other cardinals and bishops at the altar for the consecration of the bread and wine.

As Cardinal Bevilacqua lifted the white disk of bread before before him, 800 male voices filled the great rotunda with the words of consecration: ``This is my body . . . ''

After the priests and prelates consecrated the wine, the cardinals and diocesan bishops fanned out along the altar rail and distributed Communion. Diocesan priests came forward and took Communion and drank from the chalices.

And now the time came to bear the cardinal's body away.

``Into your hands we commend our brother, John Cardinal Krol,'' Cardinal Bevilacqua said. ``We give you thanks for the blessings he gave us in this life. . . . Open the gates of Paradise to your servant.''

The embroidered silk casket cover was taken from the coffin, and at 12:39 p.m., to the strains of Ecce Sacerdos Magnus - ``Behold the High Priest'' - the cardinals and bishops of the archdiocese gathered in a solemn circle around the coffin of African mahogany.

His pallbearers, all seminarians, lifted it from the bier and bore it behind the main altar and down a flight of steps to the marble crypt, or mausoleum, where seven of Philadelphia's previous bishops are buried. Following were the cardinals, diocesan bishops and relatives of Cardinal Krol.

``Earth to Earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust,'' said Cardinal Bevilacqua, who sprinkled the coffin with Holy Water. Each of the cardinals and diocesan bishops followed.

At 1:46, the coffin was pushed into the tomb.

``We have interred the body of John Cardinal Krol,'' Cardinal Bevilacqua said. ``Grant eternal life unto him, O Lord.''

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