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Edgar: farewell to Bob Drinan

'It goes back to the fact that you're a Christian and a Jesuit. ... It means you have to love each other and that you can't persecute people. You have to be compassionate to everyone in the world.' -- Father Robert Drinan, S.J.

New York, January 29, 2007 Clergy representatives were rare when Father Robert Drinan and the Rev. Bob Edgar served together in Congress.

Even so, it didn't seem at first glance that the two politicians had a lot in common. Father Drinan was a balding Jesuit of a certain age, an avuncular priest who felt there was no conflict in serving as a pastor and politician. Bob Edgar was an energetic young Methodist university chaplain with an easy smile, a JFK haircut, and a conviction that the voters had sent him to Congress to right the wrongs of Watergate.

It didn't take long, however, before the two clergy congressmen discovered a lot of common ground. Both opposed the Vietnam War. Both were concerned about the rampant expansion of poverty and political injustice around the world. Both were advocates of human rights. And both received the same score from a Jerry Falwell lobby that evaluated representatives on the basis of their support of war and opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment: Zero.

"We were both very proud of that," Edgar said Monday, looking back on his common experiences with Father Drinan. Edgar is now general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

Drinan, 86,  died Sunday following bouts with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. He had been living in the Jesuit community at Georgetown University in Washington.

Drinan was elected to Congress from Massachusetts in 1970, four years before Edgar's debut in the House. Drinan quickly made a name for himself by calling upon the Roman Catholic Church to pronounce the Vietnam War as "morally objectionable," and calling for President Nixon's impeachment. He quit Congress in 1980 after Pope John Paul II ordered priests not to run for political office.

"But his commitment to peace and to the poor never diminished," Edgar said. "And he never stopped insisting that you couldn't be a Christian if you were indifferent to the injustices, the tragedies, the upheavals of our times. He was one of the few people I knew of whom it could be said without exaggeration that he was a prophet among us."

NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,


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