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Baltimore's Archbishop O'Brien named to Vatican post

August 29, 2011

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore has been named by Pope Benedict XVI to become grandmaster of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

The appointment is a surprise, because Archbishop O’Brien has spent less than 4 years as the head of the Baltimore archdiocese, America’s oldest see. In the past, the post as grandmaster of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre has generally been awarded to a cardinal working at the Vatican who is approaching retirement age.

A native of New York, Archbishop O’Brien served as rector of the North American College and as head of the US military ordinariate before his appointment to Baltimore. He has attracted both praise and criticism there for his strong opposition to same-sex marriage, his support for crisis-pregnancy centers against efforts to restrict their activities, and his early decision to curb the activities of the Legionaries of Christ in the Baltimore archdiocese.

At the age of 72, Archbishop O’Brien will move to Rome to take over his new duties. He will remain apostolic administrator of the Baltimore archdiocese until a successor is named. In his new capacity he replaces another American, Cardinal John Foley, who announced in February that he was returning to his native Philadelphia, because advancing illness (leukemia) had made it impossible for him to continue his work.

The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, an equestrian order founded at the close of the 11th century to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land, continue to provide support for the Church in that region. The grand master of the order is traditionally a cardinal. Technically, Archbishop O’Brien has been named the “pro-grandmaster,” with the full title presumably to follow when he receives a red hat at the next consistory.


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