CARDINAL RICHARD CUSHIN(i, who died on Monday. was the second child of an Irish immigrant blacksmith. He left school early to work in the Boston docks, but returned later to a seminary after graduating from Boston College High School.
His jaunty personality endeared him to all who knew him, from the people of the Boston slums to his powerful friends, who included the Kennedy family. He was a long-time friend of Joseph P. Kennedy, President Kennedy's father, and a special friend of his wife and sons.
President Kennedy • was called "dear Jack" by the Cardinal, who presided at his funeral after he was assassinated in 1963. He presided also at the funeral of Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 after his assassination.
Cardinal Cushing performed the marriage of John F. Kennedy then a senator to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. When the President's widow wanted to marry the Gree\k financier Aristotle Onassis in 1968, he defended her right tq do so. but warned her that she could not marry Mr. Onassis and remain a Catholic in good standing.
Critics of the marriage responded with "gutter" mail after his announcement. He offered to resign, saying: "If they don't understand me after
47 years, they'll never understand me." Pope Paul did not act on his retirement request.
The Cardinal had wanted for years to minister to the poor in South America, and had asked to retire in 1962. The Pope did not accede to his request until about two months ago, but at his retirement the Cardinal said his health was not up to mission work.
The gaunt, tall priest (he was 6ft. 2in.), who never learned Latin, was an enigma to other priests as he went through the liturgy from memory; but he was accepted and loved by the "little people."
He amused them by such acts as dancing an Irish jig, donning a comic hat, bottlefeeding a baby, or playing Santa Claus in his red vestments, which he called his "glad rags." Cardinal Cushing was a well-known figure in Rome, where he contributed generously to the building and support of the North American Pontifical College after the 1939-45 war. Bishop Hickey, the college Rector, said: "He was a very kind, grand man. We honour him as one of our greatest benefactors."
Reports from the Vatican say Pope Paul received the news of Cardinal Cushing's death "with deep emotion," and went at once to his private chapel to pray for him.
Long before the ecumenical movement began to spread in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Cushing led a sort of one-man inter-Faith dialogue with Protestant and Jewish leaders.
As the church grasped the significance of ecumenism, he helped to reshape and modernise the Church's thoughts as a member of the Ecumenical Council.
His was the strongest American voice urging Rome to allow church services in the vernacular. It was his idea that the Church should forgo the agreement it extracts from nonCatholics that all children born in a mixed marriage must be raised as Catholics.
He was sympathetic towards mixed marriage, and befriended "people of all faiths and no faiths." His sister married a Jewish furniture salesman, and he once interrupted a Christmas sermon to preach against anti-Semitism.
He also liked to tell the story of the Jewish taxicab driver who said: "Your Eminence, you're the best Rabbi in Boston."
He could be a stern man when necessary. In the early 1950s his patience and tolerance ran out over the fanatical Jesuit priest, Fr. Leonard Feeney, who argued on Boston Common that there could be no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Fr. Feeney was sent to Rome, and eventually excommunicated.
The Cardinal was admitted to St, Elizabeth's Hospital. Boston, last March for treatment of a "resistant infection," and stayed several weeks. Doctors never explained the nature of the "infection."
In 1954, he lost 301b. during a series of operations. He said then: "I came within a glimpse of Heaven but I didn't get in, so I came home."
He contracted cancer two years later, but this was not revealed until 1964. A malignant kidney was removed, and he was given eight months to live.