Henry Kissinger, famed diplomat who shaped U.S. foreign policy and met popes, dies at 100

(OSV News) -- Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state who shaped U.S. foreign policy for decades, died Nov. 29 at his Connecticut home, his consulting firm announced. He was 100.

In a Nov. 30 statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York offered his condolences to Kissinger's family, noting their longtime friendship and the late diplomat's appearance at the 78th dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Oct. 19.

At that dinner, Kissinger told the gathering the risks today are so great "we cannot afford a divided nation in a world in which nuclear power is matched by the growth of artificial intelligence, which removes all obstacles to accuracy and distance." Quoting his 1974 address to the foundation dinner, Kissinger said, "Societies do not grow by victories of one faction over another, but by reconciliations."

"While I have admired and followed his international work closely for half a century, I feel privileged to have gotten close to him since my arrival here in New York almost 15 years ago," Cardinal Dolan said, noting the friendship Kissinger shared also with his predecessors, Cardinals Terence Cooke, John O'Connor and, especially, Edward Egan."I thank God for his efforts at peace, and was inspired by his profound appreciation of the indispensable role of history, culture, and religion in world affairs," he added. "He savored his meetings with Pope St. John Paul II, and his countryman, Pope Benedict XVI. Never did he say no to my requests for counsel, or his support of a cause."

Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923, but came to the U.S. as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in 1938. He became a citizen in 1943, later serving in the U.S. Army's 84th Infantry Division from 1943 to 1946, where he received a Bronze Star.

He later studied international relations, and in 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Advisor. Kissinger then became secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Gerald Ford, and advised subsequent U.S. presidents.

Kissinger leaves a complicated legacy: In 1973, he was one of two diplomats awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after negotiating the Paris Peace Accords that ended U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. But he also faced criticism for the U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia conducted under a veil of secrecy.

He also brokered a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt that shaped the modern history of the region. He also faced scrutiny for comments he made during the 1970s that American foreign policy did not include among its objectives helping Jewish people under Soviet oppression emigrate to the U.S.

In a statement issued on behalf of their family, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower said, "We express our deepest condolences on the passing of one of America's most skilled diplomats."

"Henry Kissinger will be long remembered for his many achievements in advancing the cause of peace," the statement said. "But it was his character that we will never forget. As a youth, he escaped the horrors of the Third Reich. Then, as a newly naturalized American citizen and a member of the United States Army's 84th Infantry, he returned to Germany to help achieve the defeat of the Nazi regime."

The pair went on to praise Kissinger's commitment to their father's administration and foreign policy.

In comments to reporters before a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog Nov. 30, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "Secretary Kissinger really set the standard for everyone who followed in this job."

"I was very privileged to get his counsel many times, including as recently as about a month ago," Blinken said. "He was extraordinarily generous with his wisdom, with his advice. Few people were better students of history -- even fewer people did more to shape history -- than Henry Kissinger."

Herzog also noted his admiration for Kissinger, particularly for his role in securing Israel's peace agreement with Egypt, along with "many other processes around the world."

"I always felt his love and compassion for Israel and his belief in the Jewish state," he added.

Over the span of his career, Kissinger met with several popes, including St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

In 2014 remarks to seminarians reported by Catholic New York, then the Archdiocese of New York's newspaper, Kissinger said that St. John Paul II once personally told him "the function of the church is to tell the truth."

"He felt his papacy should be devoted to that," he said.Kissinger is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, two children David and Elizabeth and five grandchildren, according to his firm.

- - - Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.