It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our friend and colleague, The Reverend Dr. Bernard Joseph O’Connor. Born March 13, 1951, Fr. Bernie was a native of Nova Scotia and ordained to the priesthood in 1977 for the Diocese of Antigonish. He was Fellow and John Henry Cardinal Newman Professor of Theology and Ecclesial Mediation at the Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana, USA, where he served from 1996 to 2015. Fr. Bernie was named John Henry Cardinal Newman Professor Emeritus in the spring of 2015 prior to his passing. A renowned expert on papal diplomacy, he authored two books on the subject, Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and the Culture of Peace (St. Augustine’s Press, 2005) and a forthcoming book from St. Augustine’s Press on Pope Benedict XVI (autumn 2015). He also taught on the Oxford Theology Summer School of the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford and the Summer Programme in Theology of the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge.
He received his B.A. in history/philosophy from St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia; his M.A. (Spirituality) from Creighton University; the M.Div/S.T.B. from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa; the M.C.L./J.C.L. (Canon Law) from the University of Ottawa and S.T.L. and S.T.D. (Systematics) from the Gregorian University. In 1994 he received the J.D. from the University of Tennessee. His numerous certifications and awards over the past 20 years include an Advanced Negotiation Certificate from Harvard Law School and certificates in international diplomacy and conflict management from the U.S. State Department at the Foreign Service Institute and from the UN Institute for Training and Research. He was twice named Michigan Professor of the Year by the Carnegie/CASE Foundation. In 1998, he was the recipient of a Templeton Award for curriculum design in religion-science dialogue. Between 1994 and 2004, Fr. Bernie was Assistant Dean at Eastern Michigan University and Visiting Professor for the Straus Institute at Pepperdine Law School and for Ave Maria College and Law School. He was designated a “national expert in Constitutional philosophy” by the We The People Program in civic education, served on the State of Michigan Board of Ethics, and was appointed to the U.S. Army National Committee on ROTC Education.
In 1999, Father Bernie received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from the Graduate Theological Foundation for “exceptional accomplishment in conflict resolution education.” In 2004, Fr. Bernie was called to the Vatican to serve the Congregation of Eastern Churches. In 2011, Fr. Bernie was appointed Chancellor’s Visiting Professor of Law and Humanities at Indiana University (Kokomo). In the summer of 2011, he served as Scholar-in-Residence at the Graduate Theological Foundation for his book on Pope Benedict XVI, later joining the GTF’s administration in 2014 as Chief Counsel for Catholic Affairs to the President. In May of 2013, Fr. Bernie served as Runcie Lecturer in the Graduate Theological Foundation’s annual Lord Robert Runcie Convocation Lecture Series where he spoke on the topic of “The Papal Resignation of 2013: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Emmaus.” A video of his lecture is available here, and the text is available here.
Following an extended illness, Fr. Bernie passed away on Sunday, May 10, 2015, in Mishawaka, Indiana, with friends at his side.