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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, quietly battling leukemia throughout his tenure. He was named a cardinal in 1969. Nine years after his death, he was designated a Servant of God, the first step in the process that leads to beatification and then canonization as a saint.

Terence James Cooke

Cardinal, Archbishop of New York
Terence Cooke.jpg
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
SeeNew York
AppointedMarch 2, 1968
InstalledApril 4, 1968
Term endedOctober 6, 1983
PredecessorFrancis Spellman
SuccessorJohn Joseph O'Connor
Other postsCardinal-Priest of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo
Vicar Apostolic for the United States Armed Forces
OrdinationDecember 1, 1945
by Francis Spellman
ConsecrationDecember 13, 1965
by Francis Spellman
Created cardinalApril 28, 1969
by Pope Paul VI
Personal details
Born(1921-03-01)March 1, 1921
Manhattan, New York City, New York,
United States
DiedOctober 6, 1983(1983-10-06) (aged 62)
Manhattan, New York City, New York,
United States
BuriedSt. Patrick's Cathedral, New York
Nationality American
ParentsMichael Cooke & Margaret Gannon
Previous post
MottoFiat Voluntas Tua
(Thy Will Be Done)
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Title as SaintServant of God
AttributesCardinal's attire
Ordination history of
Terence Cooke
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byFrancis Spellman
DateDecember 13, 1965
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Terence Cooke as principal consecrator
Martin Joseph Neylon, S.J.February 2, 1970
Patrick Vincent AhernMarch 19, 1970
Edward Dennis HeadMarch 19, 1970
James Patrick MahoneySeptember 15, 1972
Anthony Francis MesticeMarch 5, 1973
James Jerome KilleenDecember 13, 1975
Howard James HubbardMarch 27, 1977
Theodore Edgar McCarrickJune 29, 1977
Austin Bernard VaughanJune 29, 1977
Francisco GarmendiaJune 29, 1977
Joseph Thomas O'KeefeSeptember 8, 1982
Emerson John MooreSeptember 8, 1982
Joseph Thomas DiminoMay 10, 1983
Francis Xavier RoqueMay 10, 1983
Lawrence Joyce KenneyMay 10, 1983
Styles of
Terence Cooke
Coat of arms of Terence James Cooke.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal


Early life and educationEdit

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] Michael Cooke worked as a chauffeur and construction worker.[3] At age five, Terence and his family moved from Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to the northeast Bronx. Following his mother's death in 1930, his aunt Mary Gannon helped raise him and his siblings.[2]

After expressing an early interest in the priesthood, in 1934 Cooke entered the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. 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] Cooke then served as chaplain for St. Agatha's Home for Children in Nanuet[4] until 1947, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue graduate studies at The Catholic University of America. He obtained a Master of Social Work degree in 1949.[2]

When he returned to New York, Cooke was assigned to serve as a curate at St. Athanasius Parish in the Bronx, while also teaching at Fordham University's School of Social Service.[2] In 1954 he was appointed Executive Director of the Youth Division of Catholic Charities and procurator of St. Joseph's Seminary. In 1957 he was appointed by Cardinal Spellman to be his secretary, a position he held until 1965. Cooke was named a Monsignor on August 13, 1957, and Vice-Chancellor for the Archdiocese in 1958, rising to full Chancellor in 1961.[1]

Auxiliary BishopEdit

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

Cooke played a prominent role in arranging Pope Paul'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 YorkEdit

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

Pope Paul's selection of Cooke 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, Cooke 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 plead for racial peace[2] and later attended King's funeral.[7] After the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Cooke baptized Kennedy's youngest child, Rory Kennedy.[8]

In 1969, Cooke delivered the benediction at the inauguration of President Richard Nixon.

Cooke helped implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the Archdiocese, and adopted a more collegial management style than his predecessor Spellman.[9] Pope Paul VI created him Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Rome (the traditional titular church of the New York archbishops starting in 1946) 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. Cooke was theologically conservative but progressive in secular matters.[3]

During his tenure as archbishop, Cooke founded Birthright, which offers women alternatives to abortion; the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which provides financial aid for Catholic-school students; an Archdiocesan Housing Development Program, providing housing to New York's disadvantaged; Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper; and nine nursing homes.[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]

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, Cooke separately hosted the Dalai Lama[11] and Pope John Paul II at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Illness and deathEdit

Cooke's leukemia, first diagnosed in 1965, was deemed terminal in 1975,[4] and he was on almost constant chemotherapy for the last five years of his life.[12] In late August 1983, he announced his illness to the public, saying that he was expected to live for a few more months but would not resign his post.[6] 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]

On October 6, 1983, Cooke died from leukemia in his episcopal residence in Manhattan, New York City, at age 62.[1] He is interred in the crypt under the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral.


Cause for canonizationEdit

Cooke was regarded as a holy person by many New Yorkers during his ministry as archbishop. Soon after his death in 1983, a movement emerged to canonize him as a saint. 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 Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially designated Cooke as a Servant of God, the first step in the process that leads to beatification and then canonization as a saint. On April 14, 2010, the Guild and senior American clergy presented Pope Benedict XVI with the positio, the documentation of the cardinal's life, work and virtues. The document was then filed with the Congregation for Causes, to be examined by theologians.[17] If the document is approved, Cardinal Cooke will receive the title of Venerable, the second step leading to sainthood.

The Reverend Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., was the postulator for the cause while it was in its initial stages in New York. Since the process was accepted by the Holy See, Andrea Ambrosi, J.D., has served in that position.[4]

Other recognitionsEdit

On April 5, 1984, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Cooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[18] In 1988, he posthumously received the F. Sadlier Dinger Award from the publisher William H. Sadlier, Inc., for his contributions to religious education.[19]

During his years as Archbishop, Cooke received honorary degrees from at least four Catholic colleges: College of New Rochelle (1968),[20] College of Mount Saint Vincent (1968),[21] Boston College (1969),[22] and Marymount Manhattan College (1978).[23]

At least seven buildings in the Archdiocese of New York have been named in his honor:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Miranda, Salvador. "COOKE, Terence James". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Terence Cardinal Cooke (1921–83)". All for Mary – American Saints. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d "Succession to Spellman". TIME Magazine. March 15, 1968.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Who was Terence Cardinal Cooke?". Terence Cardinal Cooke – Cause for Canonization. Archived from the original on January 25, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d "Terence James Cardinal Cooke".
  6. ^ a b "Milestones". TIME Magazine. September 5, 1983.
  7. ^ "Saintly Shepherd". Catholic New York. March 9, 2003. Archived from the original on June 20, 2006.
  8. ^ "People: Jan. 24, 1969". TIME Magazine. January 24, 1969. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c "Milestones". TIME Magazine. October 17, 1983.
  10. ^ "Great Tribute". Catholic New York. October 9, 2008.
  11. ^ "I Am a Human Being: a Monk". TIME Magazine. September 17, 1979.
  12. ^ Treaster, Joseph B. (October 5, 1983). "Cardinal Cooke 'Close to Death'". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Battling the Bomb in Church". TIME Magazine. January 4, 1982.
  14. ^ "Abortion on Demand". TIME Magazine. January 29, 1973.
  15. ^ Byrne, James, Philip Coleman, and Jason King. Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2008. 826. Print.
  16. ^ "The Princess From Hollywood". TIME Magazine. September 27, 1982.
  17. ^ Wooden, Cindy (April 14, 2010). "Report for late New York cardinal's sainthood cause presented to pope". Catholic News Service.
  18. ^ Presidential Medal of Freedom, The White House, p. 52.
  19. ^ The F. Sadlier Dinger Award, William H. Sadlier, Inc.
  20. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients, College of New Rochelle.
  21. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients, College of Mount Saint Vincent.
  22. ^ Honorary Degrees Awarded, Boston College.
  23. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients, Marymount Manhattan College.
  24. ^ Terence Cardinal Cooke Catholic Center, Archdiocese of New York.
  25. ^ Terence Cardinal Cooke–Cathedral Library, New York Public Library.
  26. ^ Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center, ArchCare.
  27. ^ Cooke: Special Education School & Services, Cooke School & Institute.
  28. ^ Beacon of Hope House: Terence Cardinal Cooke Residence, East Bronx, Perceptions For People With Disabilities.
  29. ^ Cardinal Cooke Residence, Spring Valley, Manta Media.
  30. ^ Dedication of the Cardinal Cooke Centre, Church of Saint Clare.

External linksEdit

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
See Created
Titular Bishop of Summa
1965 – 1968
Succeeded by
Daniel Liston, C.S.Sp
Preceded by
Francis Spellman
Vicar Apostolic for the Military Services
1968 – 1983
Succeeded by
John Joseph Thomas Ryan
Archbishop of New York
1968 – 1983
Succeeded by
John Joseph O'Connor
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Giovanni e Paolo
1969 – 1983