Friday, January 06, 2012

Grand Master... Eminent Hon

Returning to our coverage of Red Dawn 2012, for only the fourth time in the 223-year history of American Catholicism's Premier See, an archbishop of Baltimore has been called into the Pope's "Senate."

Uniquely, however, this time it's a former Charm City prelate.

Named by Benedict XVI as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in late August -- notably on the recommendation of his predecessor, the beloved, since-homegone John Cardinal Foley -- on news of his elevation this morning, Cardinal-designate Edwin O'Brien released the following brief statement:
This is an honor I humbly accept and proudly share with the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. While this honor may be a reflection of my new position, I believe it is also the result of the great collaboration and zealous faith that I have so consistently experienced in the Church in Baltimore. I am grateful to our Holy Father for his confidence in me and pledge my continued support and fraternal love as I continue to serve this historic Archdiocese and the Church in the Holy Land.
Already in Rome for this morning's ordination of his onetime student at New York's St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie -- now Archbishop Charlie Brown, the freshly-named apostolic nuncio to Ireland -- O'Brien likewise sent the following letter to his clergy and pastoral staff late this morning:
It is with great joy and humility that I share the news that I have been named to the College of Cardinals by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Though I recognize this honor is a reflection of my recent appointment, I am confident that it is also a result of our work together to spread the Gospel to God’s people in our beloved Archdiocese of Baltimore. Therefore, I share this honor with you and with all of those with whom I have collaborated these past four-plus years and offer my sincere gratitude for all you have done and continue to do to lift up the Church in Baltimore.

Though my service as Archbishop of the Premier See ended far sooner than I had expected or hoped, I take great pride in what we accomplished together and even greater joy in the certain hope that the Archdiocese is headed for greater things in the future.

News will be provided about the upcoming consistory on February 18, and I pray that many of you and your people will be able to take part in the liturgy and other celebrations that reflect the rich traditions and majesty of our Church.

As I will remain in Rome for our ad limina visit with the Holy Father, I will not return to Baltimore until late this month and thus will be unable to mark this special occasion with you personally at the present time. Please know that each of you will be in my thoughts and prayers in the days and weeks to come and that I share this great honor with the priests, deacons and people of the Archdiocese, with my humble and heartfelt thanks for all you have done for me and for our Church.
Much like his Stateside classmate in the entering group, O'Brien's elevation is, in many ways, the fait accompli of a long, distinguished ministry underpinned by dedication, diligence and savvy.

Having served as priest-secretary to both Cardinals Terence Cooke and John O'Connor, he preceded Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan as rector of the Pontifical North American College, serving in the Rome post from 1989-94. Ordained an auxiliary of his native New York a year after returning from the Hill, O'Brien subsequently spent a decade as the traveling head of the 1.5 million member archdiocese for the Military Services, whose turf encompasses all Catholics in uniform on domestic and foreign installations, and US government employees overseas.

Yet even as four Baltimore archbishops have been given the red hat since the legendary James Gibbons in 1886, Orioles Country already has a voting member in the sitting College: the former archbishop of Denver, now retired as Major Penitentiary, Cardinal James Francis Stafford is a native son of the city, where he became an auxiliary bishop in 1984.

Come late July, however, the gentle, unassuming scholar-prince marks his 80th birthday, signaling the end of his voting privileges in a hypothetical conclave, along with his several key dicastery memberships.

All that said, the house saves its greatest joy and highest happiness in today's news for long, blessed last....