Monday, August 29, 2011

The Grand Hon: O'Brien Named Holy Sepulchre Chief

Not to sound like a broken record or anything... but what was expected is now official: at Roman Noon today, Pope Benedict tapped Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore as Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

His move to Rome first revealed on these pages Saturday, the 72 year-old prelate -- now, in effect, a "Cardinal-in-Waiting" in advance of the next consistory (expected in late 2012) -- will comment on his transfer at a 10am press conference at the offices of the nation's oldest diocese, just across from the Basilica of the Assumption, American Catholicism's mother-church. As previously noted, O'Brien will remain apostolic administrator of the 500,000-member Baltimore church until his successor is installed, a period which could extend for close to a year, or even longer, given present conditions on the pipeline.

On a historic note, for the first time since 1947, when Archbishop Michael Curley died after a 26-year tenure, the Premier See of these United States has fallen vacant -- and this time, due to an unprecedented departure for another post. Speaking of history, at just shy of 3 years and 11 months since his October 2007 installation, O'Brien's occupancy of John Carroll's chair becomes the briefest among Charm City's 15 archbishops since the founding father's immediate successor, the Jesuit Leonard Neale, died in a carriage accident in June 1817, barely 18 months after acceding to the reins on Carroll's own death.

The first prelate having been consecrated in England, in 1800 Neale -- then president of Georgetown College -- became the first bishop ordained on American soil following his appointment as coadjutor to Carroll.

A notably energetic figure -- he's exhorted his priests on the importance of personal fitness -- word from Rome emphatically adds that, despite the age of the millennium-old order's new chief, "this is not a 'retirement' appointment." O'Brien's enjoyment of travel, efficient management-style and savvy at navigating difficult geopolitical situations (a skill honed during his decade leading the archdiocese for the Military Services) are all expected to be employed to their fullest extent, both for the effectiveness of the order's work in the Holy Land, and to keep connected with the group's membership spread across the globe.

As ever, more to come.