BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CNS) — Mother Angelica, who founded the Eternal Word Television Network and turned it into one of the world’s largest religious media operations, died March 27 at age 92. Feisty and outspoken, she was a major controversial figure in the U.S. church in the closing decades of the 20th century. At the same time, the international scope of EWTN’s media operations gave her a ready calling card at the Vatican.
She built the venture into a network that transmits programs 24 hours a day to more than 230 million homes in 144 countries via cable and other technologies. It broadcasts in English and several other languages. Mother Angelica had been ill for years. She was operated on Dec. 24, 2001, in a Birmingham hospital to remove a blood clot in her brain after she suffered her second major stroke. It left her with partial paralysis and a speech impediment.
Last November, she was placed on a feeding tube as she continued to battle lingering effects of the strokes. Mother Angelica died at her order’s Our Lady of Angels Monastery in Hanceville, where she “was surrounded by the prayers and love of her spiritual daughters, sons and dear friends,” said a statement from the Poor Clares.
A morning funeral Mass is to be celebrated April 1 in the upper church by bishops and clergy from around the world. Father Joseph Mary Wolfe, a Franciscan Missionary of the Eternal Word, was the homilist. Following her funeral, Mother Angelica’s body is to be interred in the shrine’s Crypt Chapel.
“This is a sorrow-filled day for the entire EWTN family. Mother has always, and will always, personify EWTN, the network which she founded,” Michael P. Warsaw, chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
“In the face of sickness and long-suffering trials, Mother’s example of joy and prayerful perseverance exemplified the Franciscan spirit she held so dear. We thank God for Mother Angelica and for the gift of her extraordinary life,” he said. “Her accomplishments and legacies in evangelization throughout the world are nothing short of miraculous and can only be attributed to divine providence and her unwavering faithfulness to Our Lord.”
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross to Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill Steltemeier, then-chairman of EWTN’s board of governors, for distinguished service to the church. The cross, whose name is Latin for “for the church and the pope,” is the highest papal honor that can be conferred on laypeople and clergy.
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