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The priest
who rebelled against war

· Jesuit Daniel J. Berrigan dies ·

The Jesuit priest Daniel J. Berrigan died on Saturday, 30 April, at the age of 94. A poet and playwright, Fr Berrigan received great notoriety in the 1970s and 1980s for his courageous and, at times, clamorous protests against war and other forms of violence. In 1971 the weekly Time dedicated one of its covers to him and his brother Philip, also a priest and protest leader, to the “rebel priests”.

Many of his acts of civil disobedience were unusual, especially given the spirit of the times. He caused particular uproar in his campaign against U.S. involvement war in the Vietnam War. On 17 May 1968, Fr Berrigan along with his brother and seven other pacifists went to the Selective Service Office in Catonsville, Maryland, and burnt draft records. As a result, he remained in hiding (his name was among the ten most wanted fugitives in the country) and then served a two-year prison sentence for his conviction.

“Such blatant anti-war demonstrations and radical protests against U.S. imperialism”, Francesco Pistocchini wrote in the October 2009 issue of the Jesuit magazine Popoli, “could have created problems for [his] superiors but Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe, who understood the effects of the atomic bomb since he lived in Hiroshima, visited [Fr Berrigan] in the federal prison in Danbury”. Also because, as Fr Berrigan was to point out 40 years after his arrest, “I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”

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