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Issue Date:  November 2, 2007

-- RNS

Gerald Renner
Former RNS editor Gerald Renner dies at 75

Gerald Renner, a former editor of Religion News Service and a longtime religion writer for The Hartford Courant, died Oct. 24 of cancer. He was 75.

Known for both investigative journalism and offbeat stories, Renner continued his writing career after retiring from the Connecticut newspaper in 2000 after 15 years. He coauthored the book Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II in 2004.

“He was a grand balance of principled reporter and delightful gentleman,” said Jason Berry, Renner’s coauthor. “He was tenacious in the pursuit of truth and he was a very collegial guy to work with.”

Renner, who lived in Norwalk, Conn., was editor of Religion News Service from 1980 to 1984, after becoming managing editor in 1976. He helped with the technological development of the then-New York-based news service and set up its Washington bureau. He moved the service away from its focus on institutional news and began increased coverage of news related to church-state separation.

William Bole, the second Washington bureau reporter for RNS, recalled Renner’s openness to young journalists and his ability to help them learn the craft.

“I just walked off the street with an idea about covering a talk by [Catholic priest and peace activist] Dan Berrigan at Fordham and he let me do it,” Bole recalled of his early career in the 1980s when he was fresh out of college. “He would let people do things like that. ... He just loved to work with young people.”

In the last decade, Renner wrote a range of stories for RNS, including the appointment of now-Cardinal Edward Egan to New York after the death of Cardinal John O’Connor, and one explaining the practice of saying “God bless you” after someone sneezes.

“You can’t escape it,” Renner wrote. “Salutation on sternutation -- the act of sneezing -- is universal.”

“He had a weakness for the offbeat story and he did them better than anybody I know,” said Bole, now an editorial consultant for universities. “But he was an extremely serious journalist and he addressed serious topics.”

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, November 2, 2007

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