Statement by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone on the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein

As our state and nation mourn the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein, I would like to express the sympathy of the Catholic community of San Francisco and assure her family of our prayers for her and for them. The senator was an alumna of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and from those formative years she forged deep and abiding friendships with many Catholics. Tragic circumstances placed her at the helm of San Francisco in a time of great turmoil and anger. During her tenure as mayor, she had to face many challenges, and I am told by those who lived here in those days that she met them with courage, compassion, and poise.

She valued the contribution religious communities could make to the welfare of our city. I discovered that personally myself shortly after my arrival here in San Francisco as the Archbishop. Our Catholic Charities Agency had been running a home for homeless new mothers for which it was struggling to find the resources to keep open. I met with the Senator in her local office, and she immediately took an interest in the project, even going there to visit it personally herself. She helped us, even personally, come up with the funds to keep the program open.

While her politics did not always align with policies we believe best serve the common good, my experience demonstrated a trait she exhibited that we sorely need in our own time: courtesy. And this was demonstrated by her even in small acts of thoughtfulness. There was one such incident that did not take place on the public stage and it was not done for effect, but I learned about it from an eyewitness. It was in 1987, when Pope St. John Paul II visited San Francisco and met with people suffering from AIDS at Mission Dolores. There were other sick people present as well, and among them was a highly respected priest, Monsignor Donnell Walsh. He could not walk and attended in a wheelchair. After the gathering, Msgr. Walsh was brought out the side entrance of the basilica and was waiting by the curb for his ride. The sun had set and a chilly breeze had come up. Mayor Feinstein emerged from the church, and seeing the priest shivering in his wheelchair, greeted him kindly, removed her overcoat, and placed it on him.

Such a simple act of charity and thoughtfulness, and it was unnoticed by nearly everyone! From what I have heard from her friends, this was the character of Dianne Feinstein. May she rest in God’s peace.

Photo: On the occasion of The Year of St. Francis in 1982 Mayor Feinstein led a civic delegation to our sister city, Assisi. She presented the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, with a statue of St. Francis by the famed San Francisco sculptor Benny Bufano.