By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA | Wed Feb 1, 2012
(Reuters) – Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the retired Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia whose competence to testify in an upcoming church sex abuse trial was hotly debated in court, died in his sleep on Tuesday, the church said.
The cardinal, 88, led the Philadelphia archdiocese, the nation’s sixth largest, from 1988 to 2003. Church spokeswoman Donna Farrell said Bevilacqua died at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, the traditional home for the leaders of the Philadelphia archdiocese, where he had lived since retirement.
Whether Bevilacqua was well enough to testify had become a pivotal issue in the sex abuse trial of three priests, one now defrocked, and a former archdiocese school teacher. Another church official, Monsignor William Lynn, faces charges of child endangerment but is not accused of abuse.
A jury is set to begin hearing charges in March against the five defendants in a crisis that has put the archdiocese on a national stage.
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