PHILADELPHIA, July 19, 2011 ( – Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Justin Rigali from his position as head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, marking the conclusion of the active episcopal career of a leading defender of America’s unborn.

Rigali submitted his request for retirement a year ago when he turned 75, as required by Church law.


Cardinal Rigali has been archbishop of Philadelphia since 2003, the same year he was named a cardinal, after serving as Archbishop of St. Louis and in various Vatican offices.

For the American pro-life community, Rigali will be remembered for his legacy of unwavering opposition to abortion, both as head of the Philadelphia see and chair of the pro-life office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal never shrank even from politically-charged topics: when the University of Notre Dame honored President Obama at commencement in 2009, Rigali told that the school’s excuse based on the president’s different faith background “evades common sense.”

“To honor somebody [who is pro-abortion] … whatever his or her merits may be, whatever splendid things this person may do, whatever position he or she occupies … makes no sense whatsoever,” he said. At the Vigil Mass for Life earlier that year, Rigali told pro-life pilgrims that the newly-minted President Obama could expect “respectful but impassioned protest” of his pro-abortion agenda.

The cardinal has been a firm opponent of pro-abortion health care reform, enduring protests from liberal Catholics for opposing Obama’s health care overhaul.

“Since the advent of widespread contraception and abortion, a cultural hostility to children has grown,” he wrote in an October 2009 statement for Respect Life Sunday. “It bears repeating: Abortion – the direct, intentional killing of an unborn girl or boy – is not health care.”

Rigali, who holds a doctorate in canon law from Rome’s Gregorian University, has also been a firm defender of Church teaching on homosexuality and the reception of Holy Communion by publicly pro-abortion politicians.

“We’re talking about the very life of the church when we’re talking about … participation in the Eucharist,” Rigali told in 2008.  “We teach children who prepare for first Holy Communion to be worthy, to be in the state of grace. …

“To be in the state of grace you must embrace what the Church embraces, you have to embrace the faith of the Church, and you’re not free to receive the Eucharist if you don’t embrace the faith of the Church. This is St. Paul, this is St. Justin, this is the whole history of the Church.”