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Baltimore Mourns Activist Ex-Priest

December 10, 2002|From Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Carrying puppets, signs and roses, hundreds accompanied a pickup carrying the coffin of peace activist Philip Berrigan as it wound its way Monday through the rough neighborhood where he once served as a priest.

Family members stood in the back of the truck along with the plain wooden coffin, hand-painted with red roses, as bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" while the procession marched to the funeral at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church.

"He was bigger than life -- extremely human and heroic and committed," said actor Martin Sheen, who marched in the funeral parade. "He was a great inspiration and a mentor to me and others."

Berrigan, a former Roman Catholic priest, died of cancer Friday; he was 79.

Berrigan staged some of the most dramatic anti-war protests of the 1960s and was arrested at least 100 times. He served a total of 11 years in prison for his anti-war activities.

He led the "Catonsville 9," a group that used homemade napalm on a small bonfire of Selective Service draft records at a parking lot in the Baltimore suburb May 17, 1968. His brother, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, also was a member of the group.

Berrigan's daughters, Frida and Kate, read a list of the jails and prisons throughout the country where they visited their father.

"He learned patience through bolts and bars ... through long sacrifice and little reward," Daniel Berrigan told the crowd.

Some mourners carried sticks topped with cloth birds with tattered wings; others sang hymns and Buddhist monks chanted and beat drums.

Ched Myers, 47, an activist, writer and teacher from Los Angeles, said Berrigan was "a historic pioneer in the act of civil disobedience."

In the church, mourners held signs reading "Arm the World With Hugs," "Wage Peace" and "Plowshares Versus Depleted Uranium," a reference to the name of Berrigan's Plowshares for Peace.

"He was a great prophet of peace," said Father John Dear, 43, a Jesuit priest who lives in Cimarron, N.M. "He spoke the truth against war."

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