An outpouring of top conservative leaders mourned the death of Paul Weyrich at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Church, where the icon of the conservative movement served as a protodeacon.
An institution-builder, Weyrich coined the phrase “moral majority” and was a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation. His Free Congress Foundation helped invent grass-roots direct-mail fundraising campaigns for conservative causes and politicians.
The 250 seats in the McLean, Va., church were filled. Additional mourners spilled into reception halls to listen to the service, which did not include eulogies.
Among those who attended the service were Labor Secretary Elane Chao; Kate O’Beirne, Washington editor of National Review; Dave Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; and Ralph Reed, the conservative political activist.
Weyrich was raised a Roman Catholic, but after the changes implemented as a result of Vatican II, he joined the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which originated in the Middle East.
Since injuring his spine in a fall in 1996, Weyrich had been in declining health. He had diabetes and needed to use a wheelchair after 2001. In 2005, his legs were amputated below the knee.
“Many was the time when he would leave a reception in his home of which he and his lovely wife Joyce were the host and hostess, leave his guests, come to church, participate in the vespers services on Saturday evening, and then return back home,” said the Right Rev. Joseph Francavilla, pastor of the church. “Because he had made a promise as a deacon to serve the glory of God’s house as the deacon to the church.”
At one point, Francavilla had asked Weyrich how much pain he was suffering. Weyrich replied that he was at 10 on a scale of one to 10.
“Even in a moment of almost desperation, he said you know, things have become so difficult for me that if I did not know and believe that taking one’s life would be against the will of God, who is the giver of life, and we have no right to take back from God that gift of life and to count it as nothing, I could end my life, but that is not for me,” Francavilla said. “I am the servant of the living God. And I must bear my suffering as Christ bore his, without complaint.”
The pastor said Weyrich had three passions: trains, politics, and faith. A railroad buff, Weyrich served on the board of Amtrak from 1987 to 1993. But Francavilla noted that trains don’t always run on time.
As for politics, “The Scriptures tell us, put not your trust in princes or the sons of men in whom there is no salvation, or in political processes, and empires, and so on. So we can’t ultimately fix all of our hope on the political process.”
But, the pastor said, “Place your hope and your future and your life upon the Lord himself, who is the source of all life, and there you will find rest for your soul.”
A trusted and informed source, Weyrich had credibility and influence throughout the conservative movement. He confronted politicians when he disagreed with them.
Weyrich presided over Wednesday luncheons that 50 to 70 conservative leaders attended to hear presentations of members of Congress, presidential candidates, and other public figures. He ran three other coalition meetings emphasizing cultural and national security issues.
“Paul Weyrich was conservative long, long before it was cool,” Keene says. “He had little time for moderates or those who simply gave lip service to the values he held dear. His goal was to recruit conservatives, train them both ideologically and in campaign techniques and send them off to do battle with the liberals who dominated Washington in those days. He could be ornery, but he accomplished more than almost anyone of his generation.”
“My father was a blue-collar worker, but he was very well educated by his own initiative,” Weyrich told me a few months ago. “He was a strong Catholic conservative. He taught me basic principles which I use to this day. I am motivated by my family. I hope my father, watching us from above, is proud of what my good wife Joyce and I have done. Being the sinner that I am, I only hope at the last judgment the Lord can say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’"
At the end of the service, mourners stood in line to pay their last respects to Weyrich, who lay in an open coffin. He looked at peace.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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