The veteran Catholic peace campaigner, Phil Berrigan, died on Friday evening, at Jonah House in Maryland. He was 79. Berrigan had been suffering from liver and kidney cancer. Approximately thirty close friends and fellow peace activists gathered for the ceremony of last rites on November 30, officiated by his brother Daniel Berrigan SJ. Ordained a Catholic priest in the Josephite Order, in 1955, Berrigan initially specialized in inner city ministry. From 1956-1963 he taught at St Augustine's high school, New Orleans, a segregated all-black school. In 1962 he became the first priest to ride in a Civil Rights movement Freedom Ride. From 1963-1965 he taught at a Josephite seminary in Newburgh, NY. In 1966 he served at St Peter Claver parish, Baltimore. In October 1967 he poured blood on draft files in Baltimore with three others. This, and further protests with several others including his brother, Fr Daniel Berrigan lead to a jail sentence. In 1970 he married Elizabeth McAlister, a Sacred Heart of Mary nun involved in the anti-war campaign. They had three children, formed the Jonah House community in 1973 and continued their work in the peace movement. A statement on behalf of the family says: 'During his 40 years of resistance to war and violence, Berrigan focused on living and working in community as a way to model the nonviolent, sustainable world he was working to create. Jonah House members live simply, pray together, share duties, and attempt to expose the violence of militarism and consumerism. The community was born out of resistance to the Vietnam War, including high-profile draft card burning actions. Later the focus became ongoing resistance to US nuclear policy, including Plowshares actions that aim to enact Isaiah's biblical prophecy of a disarmed world. 'Because of these efforts Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison. He wrote, lectured, and taught extensively, publishing six books, including an autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War. 'In his last weeks, Berrigan was surrounded by his family, including his wife Elizabeth McAlister, his children Frida, 28, Jerry, 27, and Kate, 21; community members Susan Crane, Gary Ashbeck, and David Arthur; and extended family and community. Community members Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Dominican sisters, were unable to be physically present at Jonah House; they are currently in jail in Colorado awaiting trial for a disarmament action at a missile silo. 'Berrigan wrote a final statement in the days before his death. He said: "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself." The funeral will take place today, Monday, December 9, 12 pm, at St Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore.
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