Pope Francis pays tribute to founder of Catholic TV network

Pope Francis has offered a special blessing for Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, founder of the largest Roman Catholic television network in the United States, who died on Easter Sunday.

The cloistered Franciscan nun died at the age of 92 due to complications of a stroke.

“She’s in heaven,” Pope Francis told members of the Rome bureau of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) on Wednesday.

John Allen Jr., a journalist covering the Catholic Church, described Mother Angelica as a “lone figure, around whom an entire multimedia empire sprung up.”

“She was, in effect, her generation’s Archbishop Fulton Sheen, someone whose videos will be circulated, cherished, and devoured forever by her devotees,” Allen wrote in the new site Crux.

Mother Angelica began EWTN in 1981. By the time she retired in 2001, her 24-hour Catholic programming network already reached over 100 million homes in the United States, South America, Africa and Europe.

In 1995, Time magazine called her “an improbable superstar of religious broadcasting and arguably the most influential Roman Catholic woman in America.”

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI awarded Mother Angelica the Cross of Honor for distinguished service. It is the highest award a pope can give to a member of the laity, the term by which the church defines everyone except ordained priests.

Mother Angelica was born Rita Antoinette Rizzo on April 20, 1923, in Canton, Ohio, the only child of John and Mae Rizzo. Her father abandoned the family when she was five, and she spent much of her early life plagued by an array of stomach ailments.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1989, Mother Angelica described how a visit to a television studio in Chicago ignited her entrepreneurial drive, and led to the birth of her worldwide enterprise.


Catholic News Agency
The New York Times
Image: Crux

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