NEW YORK–The Rev. Daniel Berrigan, a Roman Catholic priest and peace activist who was imprisoned for burning draft files in a protest against the Vietnam War, died Saturday. He was 94.
Berrigan died at Murray-Weigel Hall, a Jesuit health care community in New York City after a “long illness,” according to Michael Benigno, a spokesman for the Jesuits USA Northeast Province.
“He died peacefully,” Benigno said.
Berrigan and his younger brother, the Rev. Philip Berrigan, emerged as leaders of the radical anti-war movement in the 1960s.
The Berrigan brothers entered a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, on May 17, 1968, with seven other activists and removed records of young men about to be shipped off to Vietnam. The group took the files outside and burned them in garbage cans.
The Catonsville Nine, as they came to be known, were convicted on federal charges accusing them of destroying U.S. property and interfering with the Selective Service Act of 1967. All were sentenced on Nov. 9, 1968 to prison terms ranging from two to 3.5 years.
When asked in 2009 by “America,” a national Catholic magazine, whether he had any regrets, Berrigan replied: “I could have done sooner the things I did, like Catonsville.”
Berrigan, a writer and poet, wrote about the courtroom experience in 1970 in a one-act play, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” which was later made into a movie.
Berrigan grew up in Syracuse, New York, with his parents and five brothers. He joined the Jesuit order after high school and taught preparatory school in New Jersey before being ordained a priest in 1952.
As a seminarian, Berrigan wrote poetry. His work captured the attention of an editor at Macmillan who referred the material to poet Marianne Moore. Her endorsement led to the publication of Berrigan’s first book of poetry, “Time Without Number,” which won the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1957.
Source: China Post