Justin Rigali

Justin Rigali
Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia
Justin cardinal rigali.jpg
AppointedJuly 15, 2003
InstalledOctober 7, 2003
Term endedJuly 19, 2011
PredecessorAnthony Bevilacqua
SuccessorCharles Chaput
Other postsCardinal-Priest of S. Prisca
Episcopal Liaison to CMSWR[1]
OrdinationApril 25, 1961
by James Francis McIntyre
ConsecrationSeptember 14, 1985
by John Paul II, Eduardo Martínez Somalo, and Achille Silvestrini
Created cardinalOctober 21, 2003
by John Paul II
Personal details
Birth nameJustin Francis Rigali
Born (1935-04-19) April 19, 1935 (age 84)
Los Angeles, California, US
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post
MottoVerbum caro factum est
(The Word Became Flesh)
Styles of
Justin Francis Rigali
Coat of arms of Justin Francis Rigali.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeePhiladelphia (Emeritus)

Justin Francis Rigali (born April 19, 1935) is an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the eighth Archbishop of Philadelphia, having previously served as Archbishop of St. Louis from 1994 to 2003. Rigali was elevated to the cardinalate in 2003.

Rigali previously served as the Committee for Pro-Life Activities chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

The youngest of seven children, Justin Rigali was born in Los Angeles, California, to Henry Alphonsus and Frances Irene (née White) Rigali.[3] Two of his siblings entered the religious life as well; his sister Charlotte joined the Sisters of St. Joseph, and his brother Norbert the Jesuits.[3] Rigali attended Holy Cross School before entering the preparatory seminary in Hancock Park in 1949.[3] He studied philosophy and theology at Los Angeles College, Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in San Fernando and St. John's Seminary in Camarillo.[3] He was ordained to the priesthood by James Francis Cardinal McIntyre on April 25, 1961,[4] and then did pastoral work in Los Angeles and Downey.[3]

In 1961, Rigali earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from the Catholic University of America, where he is now a member of the Board of Trustees. In October of that year, he entered the graduate division of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, later obtaining a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1964.[3] He was also an assistant during the first two sessions (1962–1963) of the Second Vatican Council.[5] Rigali briefly returned to the United States in the summer of 1964, during which time he served as an associate pastor in Pomona.[3] Returning to Rome, he then studied at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy from 1964 to 1966 in preparation for his diplomatic work for the Vatican.

Priestly ministry[edit]

Rigali began his service in the English section of the Secretariat of State on November 25, 1964.[5] From September 1966 to February 1970, he was secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature to Madagascar, which also served as the apostolic delegation for the islands of Réunion and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. He was named a Papal Chamberlain on July 11, 1967. On February 11, 1970, Rigali became director of the English section of the Secretariat of State and the English translator to Pope Paul VI, whom Rigali subsequently accompanied on several international trips.[5]

During his service at the Secretariat of State, Rigali was also a chaplain at a Carmelite monastery and a professor at his alma mater of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.[3] He accompanied Pope John Paul II on a number of international pastoral visits, including his first two journeys to the United States in 1979 (which included a trip to Rigali's future see of Philadelphia) and 1987. He was made a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness on April 19, 1980, and a magistral chaplain in the Order of the Knights of Malta on October 25, 1984.[5]

Ordination history of
Justin Rigali
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byPope John Paul II
DateSeptember 14, 1985
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Justin Rigali as principal consecrator
Edward Kenneth BraxtonMay 17, 1995
John R. GaydosAugust 27, 1997
Michael John SheridanSeptember 3, 1997
Joseph Fred NaumannSeptember 3, 1997
Timothy Michael DolanAugust 15, 2001
Robert Joseph HermannDecember 12, 2002
Lawrence Eugene BrandtMarch 4, 2004
Joseph R. CistoneJuly 28, 2004
Joseph P. McFaddenJuly 28, 2004
Kevin C. RhoadesDecember 9, 2004
Daniel E. ThomasJuly 26, 2006
Richard StikaMarch 19, 2009
Timothy C. SeniorJuly 31, 2009
Joseph BamberaApril 26, 2010
John J. McIntyreAugust 6, 2010
Michael J. FitzgeraldAugust 6, 2010

Episcopal career[edit]

On June 8, 1985, Rigali was appointed President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and Titular Archbishop of Volsinium by Pope John Paul II.[4] He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 14 from John Paul, with Cardinals Eduardo Martínez Somalo and Achille Silvestrini as co-consecrators, in the cathedral of Albano.[4] He selected as his episcopal motto: Verbum Caro Factum Est, meaning, "The Word Became Flesh" (John 1:14). He became a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre on October 13, 1986.[5]

From 1985 to 1990, in addition to his role of president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, Rigali held a number of positions within the Roman Curia, serving in the Secretariat of State, Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, Congregation for Bishops, and Pontifical Council for the Laity.[3] He was named Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops by John Paul II on December 21, 1989; as Secretary, he served as the second-highest official of that dicastery. Rigali was later made Secretary of the College of Cardinals by John Paul II on January 2, 1990, and served on the Permanent Interdicasterial Commission, Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During the same time, he was also engaged in pastoral service to a number of parishes and seminaries in Rome.[3]

Archbishop of St. Louis[edit]

On January 25, 1994, Pope John Paul II named Rigali the seventh Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri. Succeeding Archbishop John L. May, he was formally installed by Bernardin Cardinal Gantin, then the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, on March 15 of that same year.[4] The newly installed archbishop became a member of the Knights of Columbus on November 7, 1994. During his tenure at St. Louis, known as the "Rome of the West", Archbishop Rigali showed a great interest in schools, visiting every high school in the archdiocese.[6] However, Rigali opposed collective bargaining by teachers, and opposed any efforts they made to organize. Rigali was widely credited as an able administrator and effective fundraiser, although his popularity dimmed as his tenure continued.[6]

In January 1999, Rigali hosted the pastoral visit of John Paul to St. Louis, the only such papal visit (not counting the even briefer stopovers John Paul made in Alaska on trips to other countries) to a single diocese in the United States during the pontificate.[6] John Paul reportedly decided to be hosted by the Archdiocese of St. Louis because of his longtime close friendship with Rigali, from Rigali's days working under him in Rome as a bishop.[6]

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, during his tenure as Archbishop of St. Louis, Rigali "brought financial stability to the St. Louis Archdiocese, overseeing successful capital campaigns to address immediate needs and raising endowment funds for the future."[7]

Archbishop of Philadelphia[edit]

Rigali was later appointed the eighth Archbishop of Philadelphia by Pope John Paul II toward the end of his pontificate on July 15, 2003,[4] replacing the retiring Anthony Bevilacqua.[8] Prior to Rigali's installation in Philadelphia on October 7, 2003, it was announced on September 28 that he would be elevated to the College of Cardinals, a customary privilege for the archbishops of Philadelphia. Rigali was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca in the consistory of October 21, 2003.

Rigali was the only American cardinal to serve as a concelebrant at the 2005 funeral mass for John Paul II. He was also one of the cardinal electors who participated in the ensuing papal conclave, which selected Pope Benedict XVI, as well as the following conclave, which selected Pope Francis. Rigali remained eligible to vote in conclaves until he reached 80 on April 19, 2015.

In September 2007, the cardinal was named by Benedict as a member of the Congregation for Bishops, the curia department that puts forward to the Pope the names of those considered to be appropriate choices to be appointed as bishops.

Apostolic Administrator of Scranton[edit]

On August 31, 2009, Rigali became the Apostolic Administrator (sede vacante) to the Diocese of Scranton following the Pope's acceptance of the resignations of Bishop Joseph Martino and Bishop John Dougherty, Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton. Rigali served eight months as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Scranton. His delegate was Joseph Bambera, who became the tenth Bishop of Scranton on April 26, 2010, bringing Rigali's administration of Scranton to an end.

Between Scranton administration and retirement[edit]

On June 16, 2011, Rigali was appointed the Pope's special envoy to the celebrations at Prachatice in the Czech Republic for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint John Neumann, the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia and thus Rigali's predecessor. Neumann, the second American citizen to be canonized (after Frances Xavier Cabrini), was born in Prachatice, came to the United States and was ordained there in 1836, and in 1848 became a naturalized United States citizen.[9]

On July 19, 2011, Pope Benedict named Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to succeed Rigali in Philadelphia.[10] Rigali's retirement occurred amid scandal,[10] and specifically "amid an uproar over grand jury allegations that he was keeping about three dozen suspected abusers in ministry."[11] Rigali initially had stated that "there were no priests in active ministry who had been accused of abuse" before reversing course and suspending 21 priests in a single day, "prompting criticism that he should have alerted prosecutors sooner."[10] Archbishop Chaput was installed on September 8, 2011.[12][13]


After the installation of Chaput in Philadelphia, Rigali retired in residence with the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee at the invitation of Bishop Richard Stika, who had been vicar general and chancellor of the Archdiocese of St. Louis when Rigali was archbishop there.[citation needed] He has been active in the diocese during his residence there.[14][15]

In December 2013, when Pope Francis overhauled the membership of the Congregation for Bishops, Rigali, then 78, retired and was not reappointed.[16]

At least since November 2015, Rigali has also participated in some activities in the Diocese of Nashville.[17]

Controversies over handling of sexual abuse scandals[edit]

As Rigali retired, The New York Times ran an article with the headline "In Philadelphia, a Changing of the Guard in the Shadow of Scandal"; the article referred to "the cloud that hangs over Cardinal Rigali's legacy – his mishandling of the abuse scandal."[10] In September 2015, the group Catholic Whistleblowers, an organization of priests, nuns and canon lawyers who advocate on behalf of victims of clergy sex abuse, petitioned Pope Francis, shortly before his visit to the United States, to investigate Rigali's treatment of child sex abuse victims and families, along with the record of Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.[11]

In 2007, a former Catholic high school student called a church sexual abuse hotline to report that he had been repeatedly molested by Michael J. Bransfield—then a teacher at Lansdale Catholic High School in Pennslyvaia—in the 1970s, decades before Bransfield had risen to become Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia.[18] Rigali, as archbishop of Philadelphia, handled the complaint, and in October 2009, Rigali declared the allegations to be unsubstantiated and took no action against Bransfield.[18] At the time, Bransfield maintained friendly relations with members of the Church hierarchy in Philadelphia, giving Rigali a gift of $1,000 in 2011 and other cash gifts to other senior clerics of the Philadelphia archdiocese, including Monsignor Timothy C. Senior, the vicar for clergy.[18] Bransfield was later forced out as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in 2018, as he came under scrutiny for a series of allegations of sexual abuse and financial impropriety throughout his tenure.[18] Bransfield's accuser said that Rigali and other officials "looked the other way" and failed to inform him about the church's handling of his complaint.[18]


Gay marriage[edit]

In June 2006, Rigali traveled to the White House along with Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark and Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley of Boston to attend a press conference by US President George W. Bush to support a constitutional amendment initiative in the United States Senate banning gay unions or marriages.


As chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Pro-Life Committee, he remarked during the annual Washington, DC, pro-life rally in January 2007 that "there are reasons for rejoicing" in the pro-life cause: the growing participation by young people and a heightened awareness of the issue's intense and growing moral sensitivity among them, who will eventually have a contribution to make to societal issues. He has publicly endorsed the Pregnant Women Support Act, which he praised for offering "an authentic common ground" that "will proved many kinds of life-affirming support for pregnant women and their unborn children."[19]

Conscience rights[edit]

In November 2009, Rigali, with several other Roman Catholic prelates, signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration, which stated:

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: (1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; (2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; (3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image ...

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence ...

Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine [of Hippo] and [Thomas] Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself.[20]

Stem cell research[edit]

In March 2009, he described President Barack Obama's lifting of George W. Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research as "a sad victory of politics over science and ethics."[21]

Ordination of women[edit]

In April 2009, he denounced the ordination ceremony of two women[clarification needed] in Roxborough, calling it a "pseudo-ordination" that "denigrates the truth entrusted to the Church by Christ himself."[22]


He has a weekly series of Lenten discourses on YouTube. In the beginning of 2010 an official Facebook page was launched for Rigali.

Charity work[edit]

He is an honorary council member of the St. Louis, Missouri–based humanitarian organization Wings of Hope.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CMSWR - Home". Archived from the original on September 21, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  2. ^ http://www.lifenews.com/2011/06/03/pro-abortion-catholic-vice-president-joe-biden-meets-with-pope/ "Pro-Abortion "Catholic" Vice President Joe Biden Meets with Pope"
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali Biography". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. May 2010. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Cheney, David M (June 4, 2011). "Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved June 30, 2011.[self-published source]
  5. ^ a b c d e Miranda, Salvador. "Rigali, Justin Francis". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  6. ^ a b c d "1994–2000: A New Springtime of Faith". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Louis.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2000/01/31/focus75.html
  8. ^ Stammer, Larry B. (July 16, 2003). "New Archbishop Named in Philadelphia". The Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "Cardinal Rigali named envoy for St. John Neumann event". ZENIT. June 16, 2011. Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Seelye, Katharine Q. (July 19, 2011). "Philadelphia's Cardinal Rigali Retires Amid Scandal". The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Michael R. Sisak & Rachel Zoll (September 16, 2015). "Victim advocates seek Vatican inquiry of Cardinals Rigali, Burke". Associated Press.
  12. ^ Allen, Jr., John L. (July 18, 2011). "Pope taps Chaput for Philadelphia". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  13. ^ "Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Named Archbishop of Philadelphia". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. July 19, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011.
  14. ^ https://dioknox.org/leadership/office-of-cardinal-rigali/
  15. ^ https://dioknox.org/tag/cardinal-justin-rigali/
  16. ^ Yardley, Jim (December 16, 2014). "Pope Replaces Conservative U.S. Cardinal on Influential Vatican Committee". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  17. ^ http://dioceseofnashville.com/search?query=Rigali
  18. ^ a b c d e 'They looked the other way': Sexual abuse claim dismissed by church foreshadowed years of allegations against Catholic bishop, Washington Post (November 29, 2019).
  19. ^ "Cardinal Rigali praises House re-introduction of 'Pregnant Women Support Act', urges co-sponsorship" (Press release). USCCB Department of Communications. April 23, 2009.
  20. ^ "Read the Declaration". Manhattan Declaration Inc. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  21. ^ "Cardinal Rigali Says Obama Stem-cell Policy Favors Politics Over Ethics". Catholic New York. March 12, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ O'Reilly, David (April 26, 2009). "Risking heresy to serve as priests". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on April 30, 2009.
  23. ^ "Our Supporters". Wings of Hope. Retrieved June 30, 2011.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Alfons Maria Stickler
Archbishop of Volsinium
Succeeded by
Justo Mullor García
Preceded by
Cesare Zacchi
President of Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy
Succeeded by
Karl-Josef Rauber
Preceded by
Giovanni Battista Re
Secretary for the Congregation for Bishops
Succeeded by
Jorge María Mejía
Preceded by
John L. May
Archbishop of Saint Louis
Succeeded by
Raymond Leo Burke
Preceded by
Anthony Bevilacqua
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Charles Chaput
Preceded by
Alfonso López Trujillo
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca