Category: Archive

Peace activist Berrigan mourned

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Berrigan, ordained a Josephite priest in 1955, fought a lifelong battle against violence with his brother Fr. Daniel Berrigan, targeting nuclear and military facilities in strikes that often led them to spend time in jail.
In total, Philip Berrigan spent 11 years in prison for acts of civil disobedience.
The cause of death was liver and kidney cancer, his family said at the weekend.
His brother Daniel gave Philip the last rites on Nov. 30, after which Philip slipped into a coma.
On Monday, hundreds of peace activists attended Berrigan’s funeral in West Baltimore. His body was carried through snowy streets on the back of a pickup truck in a plain wooden coffin made by his son Jerry. The actor Martin Sheen was among the mourners, as was former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
Clark was Berrigan’s defense attorney in 1972 when Berrigan stood trial charged with attempting to kidnap Henry Kissinger. He was acquitted.
The Berrigan brothers founded the Plowshares movement in 1980 in protest against the nuclear arms race. The group’s first act was to break into a General Electric plant where they smashed the nose cones of nuclear warheads and threw blood on to blueprints.
Berrigan left the priesthood and married a former nun, Elizabeth McAlister.
Before Thanksgiving he issued a statement through his wife: “I die with the conviction, held since 1968 . . . 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 Berrigans became national figures during the 1960s when they first began protesting the Vietnam War. On May 17, 1968 Philip and Daniel Berrigan and seven others poured homemade napalm on hundreds of selective service cards outside a draft board in Catonsville, Md.
In his last statement, he said: “These are hair trigger times and with well-manicured barbarians at the wheel and our nuclear strike force poised and ready. The American people will prevail. So will all thoughtful and decent people throughout the world.”
In his last act of civil disobedience, Berrigan and three other Plowshare activists broke into an Air National Guard base near Baltimore in December 1999 and attacked two warplanes with hammers and containers of their own blood.
He was imprisoned until December 2001.

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