Vatican paper remembers actor Robin Williams

The Vatican’s newspaper has acknowledged actor Robin Williams, who took his own life and was found dead on August 11.

In a brief article, L’Osservatore Romano called the comedian and actor an “unforgettable clown with a heart of gold”.

Williams had recently been battling severe depression , according to his publicist. He was known to have bipolar disorder, depression and drug abuse problems.

“Born in Chicago July 21, 1951 and raised in Michigan, he graduated from the Juilliard School in New York,” L’Osservatore Romano noted.

It pointed to how “Williams came to popularity in the late seventies interpreting the hyperactive alien Mork in the TV series Mork and Mindy”.

The publication recalled Williams’ numerous memorable roles – in both comedy and drama – including “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987), “Dead Poets Society” (1989), “Hook” (1991) and “Mrs Doubtfire” (1993).

It also noted the Academy Award that he won in 1998 for Best Supporting Actor in “Good Will Hunting”.

Mental health experts said that the fact that a universally loved figure like Robin Wllliams could commit suicide “speaks to the power of psychiatric illness”.

Ken Duckworth, medical director of the US National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the tragedy “speaks to the need for better treatments and the need for society to be more welcoming to people who have these conditions”.

Oblate priest Fr Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, who writes an annual article about suicide, stated in 1998 that suicide is the most misunderstood of deaths.

For most suicides, it is not true that it is voluntary, he wrote.

“A person dying of suicide dies, as does the victim of physical illness or accident, against his or her will,” Fr Rolheiser wrote.

“People die from physical heart attacks, strokes, cancer, AIDS and accidents. Death by suicide is the same, except that we are dealing with an emotional heart attack, an emotional stroke . . . an emotional fatality.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide (CCC#2282)”.

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