Pastor, anti-crime crusader John Raphael dies of cancer - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Pastor, anti-crime crusader John Raphael dies of cancer

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The Reverend  John C. Raphael died Tuesday morning at the age of 60. The Reverend John C. Raphael died Tuesday morning at the age of 60.

New Orleans, La. — The Reverend John C. Raphael, a tireless preacher who committed himself to addressing the ills outside of his church's walls, has died of cancer. He was 60.

"He was such a charismatic person, he had a way of befriending people and making them come to him. He was believable because he was real," said Catherine Raphael, widow of Pastor Raphael.

With his deep voice, Rev. Raphael often talked about what he believed he was called to do on the streets of the city and beyond.

"So many have given up on themselves and I want them to know I have not given up on them and really God has not," said Rev. Raphael in December 2008 during a rally against violence.

A former NOPD cop, Rev. Raphael ministered to the faithful at the New Hope Baptist Church in Central City where he served as pastor. He also worked diligently to help those in the community caught in the grips of poverty, drugs, and crime.

"This morning my heart is heavy as the city of New Orleans mourns the death of Pastor John C. Raphael, Jr. of New Hope Baptist Church. I have personally relied on the wisdom and counsel of Pastor Raphael over the years, not just because of what he said, but because of how he lived. Pastor Raphael will be dearly missed," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

He continued, "Whether he was preaching on the corner, fasting for days on MLK, mentoring young people, or challenging us all to do more to end the death and violence on our streets, Pastor Raphael was consistent and responsible in challenging us all to do our part to reflect the love of God and improve our city. May our thoughts and prayers be with the Raphael and New Hope families."

Standing inside the church where members and family had gathered Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Raphael exhibited strength and resolve.

From his signature "Thou Shalt Not Kill" signs posted around the city, to vigils, and even camping out on the Claiborne Avenue neutral ground, Rev. Raphael never shied away from his mission to convince the city's young men and women to stop the bloodshed. A type of fervor that sometimes gave his wife pause.

"Actually I was thinking, Lord, please do not let anybody kill this man out here on this neutral ground, sleeping, and I was fearful for him," she said.

His dedication to humanity stretched to Africa, the Caribbean and other faraway lands.

"He just had a big impact on everyone, on kids, on me, for sure because I learned from Pastor Raphael, how to love and how to care," said Germaine Steib, one of the musicians at the church who enjoyed Rev. Raphael's powerful sermons.

Others in the community flocked to the church upon hearing the news.

"There are a lot of people that died in this community without the finances to even bury them. He brought them to this church, did everything to give them a very good send-off," said Pastor Matthew George of the Berean Presbyterian Church.

And though Rev. Raphael faced a formidable disease, his death has shaken the community.

"John, and I say John affectionately, John and I grew up together. His grandfather, who was a pastor, and my father was a pastor, [they] were very close friends," said Rev. C.S. Gordon, pastor of the historic New Zion Baptist Church.

He said Raphael was effective in all arenas. "John had passion in the pulpit as well as outside of the pulpit. He could relate to those in the church and those outside of the church," said Rev. Gordon.

And as Pastor Raphael walked the streets trying to improve the lives of others, his church members, family and friends say they will continue to do the same.

"Yes, yes, there's no reason not to because it's such great work, and it's the work of the church…We'll go on because he would want us to, this is what he would expect of us and after 30 years of walking beside him I'll have to go on," said Mrs. Raphael.

According to Mrs. Raphael, on Tuesday, July 2, a public viewing at the New Hope Baptist Church will take place from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The church is located at 1807 Lasalle Street. At 7 p.m. a special service will begin at the church.

On Wednesday, at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for Performing Arts, there will be public viewing from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Then at 11 a.m. the funeral service begins.

Besides his wife, Rev. Raphael is survived by a son and grandchild as well as a host of other relatives.

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