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Ben Bolton, former Vatican correspondent for AP, dies at 82

January 9, 2015

Ben Bolton, who covered the Second Vatican Council and two papacies for The Associated Press, has died, his family said Friday. He was 82.

Metastatic cancer had been discovered throughout Bolton’s body after a hospitalization for a fall last month, his daughter Catherine said. Bolton died Dec. 28 at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Bolton arrived in Rome at the age of 29 and soon found himself immersed in the transformative meetings that became known as Vatican II, which took place over three years and helped modernize the Catholic Church. The young reporter later covered the death of the man who presided over the start of those talks, Pope John XXIII and the election of Pope Paul VI, who closed the sessions.

Catherine Bolton recalled being taken by her parents to register for first grade when a nun came running toward them.

“The smoke is white! The smoke is white!” she recalled the nun saying, indicating the election of Paul. “And my dad dashed off to cover it.”

Bennet Matthew Bolton was born July 2, 1932, in Lynbrook, New York, to parents who ran a deli. He graduated from Fordham University and was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army before earning a master’s degree at Columbia University. He began his career at Connecticut’s Hartford Courant newspaper, where an internal AP newsletter later said “he graduated from” covering courts, crime and the city council, “to writing on religion and putting out a church page.”

He joined the AP in 1958 in Newark, New Jersey, later working on the foreign desk in New York before going overseas for a six-year stint in Rome. He remained with the AP in New York and was named a religion writer before leaving in 1970.

Bolton’s daughter said he later worked for National Catholic News Service (now called Catholic News Service), the Washington radio station WMAL, and as an information director for Montgomery County, Maryland. He wrote for The National Enquirer in his later years, covering the deaths of Princess Diana and JonBenet Ramsey, among other stories.

The Enquirer’s editor, Dylan Howard, said Bolton traveled the world for the publication and his former colleagues remembered him as “a jack of all trades.”