Friday May 06, 2016

Martin Sheen remembers friend, poet, priest Daniel Berrigan: 'One of the great peacemakers.'

Martin Sheen and Daniel Berrigan (in red hat) arrested after a Martin Luther King Day protest in 1989.

Martin Sheen and Daniel Berrigan (in red hat) arrested after a Martin Luther King Day protest in 1989. (John Penley, Tamiment Library, NYU.)

Listen 9:00

Father Daniel Berrigan, priest, poet and radical pacifist, died last Saturday at the age of 94. His funeral was on Friday in New York City. 

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Rev. Fr. Daniel Berrigan and some friends participating in a fast and vigil in 1973 to protest the bombing in Cambodia. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

Berrigan was perhaps best known for being one of the "Catonsville Nine." He, along with his brother and seven other activists, took hundreds of files from a draft office in Catonsville, Maryland and burned them with homemade napalm in protest of the Vietnam War. 

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Daniel Berrigan, Martin Sheen and Philip Berrigan in the 1983 film, 'In The King Of Prussia' ('In The King of Prussia' )

Later, Berrigan was part of an activist group called the "Plowshares Eight." In 1980, the group broke into a nuclear facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, damaged nuclear weapons and poured blood on documents at the facility. The 1983 film "In the King of Prussia" is based on these events.

Actor Martin Sheen was a friend of Berrigan's. The pair met when they starred alongside each other in the movie. Berrigan played himself in the film. 

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Daniel Berrigan on NBC-TV's "Today" show, 1981. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff, File)

Berrigan and Sheen became close friends. They were even arrested together in 1986 in New York at an anti-nuclear protest.

"I went to that very first demonstration and I was arrested for the very first time for civil disobedience . . . and it was the happiest day of my life," says Sheen. "Because I had done all that I possibly could to speak against the immorality of nuclear weapons . . . and I had done it non-violently and I suffered the consequences." 

Daniel Berrigan Funeral Service

Mourners follow the hearse carrying the casket of Father Daniel Berrigan after his funeral service on Friday, May 6, 2016 in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Sheen was raised Catholic, but he says he "let it go" in his early twenties. Sheen, however, was "so moved" by the work of individuals like Mother Theresa and Berrigan that he returned to the Catholic church in the early '80s.

"These were kind of like famous Catholics and they were involved in social justice and the corporate works of mercy — feeding the hungry and the housing the homeless and clothing the naked," says Sheen.

"[Berrigan] was one of the great peacemakers and it came at a time when it was sorely needed. So we're going to miss him. But he leaves a legacy and an inspiration that's going to be very, very nurturing."