Anti-War Activist Daniel Berrigan Dies Father Daniel Berrigan rose to national attention as one of a group of Catholic activists who were arrested for burning draft cards in 1968.

Anti-War Activist Daniel Berrigan Dies

Anti-War Activist Daniel Berrigan Dies

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Father Daniel Berrigan rose to national attention as one of a group of Catholic activists who were arrested for burning draft cards in 1968.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to take a moment now to mark the passing of a lifelong Catholic peace activist and poet, a Jesuit priest who was at one time on the cover of Time magazine and later, the FBI's Most Wanted List. Father Daniel Berrigan came to national attention as one of the so-called Catonsville Nine, a group of devout Catholic activists who were arrested and imprisoned for a dramatic act of civil disobedience in protest of the Vietnam War.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PRIESTS: Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us...

MARTIN: In May 1968, Berrigan and eight others walked into the offices of the local draft board in Catonsville, Md. They grabbed hundreds of Selective Service cards, brought them to the parking lot and burned them using homemade napalm. They held hands and prayed as the papers went up in smoke. And then they were arrested.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Going to take you to the station. Right in the back of the paddy wagon.

MARTIN: In the documentary "Investigation Of A Flame," Berrigan described the trial that followed, where prosecutors presented boxes of burnt draft cards.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "INVESTIGATION OF A FLAME")

DANIEL BERRIGAN: And they introduced those in evidence, as though they were important. And they were nothing. I mean, we had burned papers instead of children. That was our crime.

MARTIN: Berrigan was sentenced to three years in prison but went into hiding before his eventual capture. Berrigan continued his peace activism for the next four decades, following his release in 1972. He wrote more than 50 books of secular and religious commentary and poetry. Father Daniel Berrigan died Saturday in New York City at the age of 94.

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Daniel Berrigan, Activist Jesuit Priest Who Opposed Vietnam War, Dies

Daniel Berrigan speaks in Colorado in 1974. Jodi Cobb/Denver Post via Getty Images hide caption

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Jodi Cobb/Denver Post via Getty Images

Daniel Berrigan speaks in Colorado in 1974.

Jodi Cobb/Denver Post via Getty Images

The Rev. Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest who became emblematic of the movement opposing U.S. involvement in Vietnam after an audacious act of civil disobedience, died on Saturday.

The Jesuit magazine, America, reports that he died at age 94 at the Murray-Weigel Jesuit Community in the Bronx, New York.

Berrigan was an acclaimed poet but he came to national prominence when he and eight others stole hundreds of draft records from the Selective Service Offices in Catonsville, Maryland.

They walked outside and set the documents on fire using homemade napalm.

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Berrigan was taken to jail. During his trial, the burnt documents were trotted into court.

"They introduced those in evidence as though they were important," Berrigan said in the documentary Investigation of a Flame. "And they were nothing. I mean we had burned papers instead of children. That was our crime."

The New York Times reports that Berrigan was convicted of destroying government property and he was sentenced to three years in prison. He tried to evade authorities but was eventually caught.

The Times adds:

"[His brother] Philip Berrigan had been the main force behind Catonsville, but it was mostly Daniel who mined the incident and its aftermath for literary meaning — a process already underway when the F.B.I. caught up with him on Block Island, off the Rhode Island coast, on Aug. 11, 1970. There was 'The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,' a one-act play in free verse drawn directly from the court transcripts, and 'Prison Poems,' written during his incarceration in Danbury.

"In 'My Father,' he wrote:

I sit here in the prison ward
nervously dickering with my ulcer
a half-tamed animal
raising hell in its living space

In recent years, America Magazine reports, Berrigan continued his anti-war activism. He protested the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.