Archbishops of Baltimore
Edwin Cardinal O'Brien
15th Archbishop of Baltimore 2007-2012
Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore 2012-present
Edwin Frederick O'Brien was born on April 8, 1939 in the Bronx, New York, to Edwin Frederick, Sr. and Mary Winifred O'Brien. One of three children, he has two late brothers, Ken and Tom.
He graduated from Our Lady of Solace School in 1953, and from St. Mary's High School in Katonah in 1957. He entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers in 1959, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts (1961), Master of Divinity (1964), and Master of Arts (1965) degrees.
Cardinal Francis Spellman ordained to the priesthood on May 29, 1965. His first assignment was as a civilian chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point until 1970 when he became an army chaplain with the rank of Captain. He also took flight training that required him to parachute out of airplanes. He served as chaplain at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with the 82nd Division (1970–71), and in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and 1st Cavalry Brigade (1971–72). While in Vietnam, he was based in a jungle and flew with a Protestant minister by helicopter to minister to soldiers.
From 1972 to 1973, he was a post chaplain at Fort Gordon in Georgia. O'Brien was then sent by Cardinal Terence Cooke to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Angelicum University in 1976; his dissertation was titled: "The Origin and Development of Moral Principles in the Theology of Paul Ramsey."
Upon his return to the United States, he served as both the vice-chancellor of the Archdiocese of New York and associate pastor at St. Patrick Cathedral from 1976 to 1981. In 1979, he coordinated Pope John Paul II's visit to New York. He served as archdiocesan Director of Communications from 1981 to 1983.
Between 1983 and 1985, he served as private secretary to Cardinal Cooke and then to his successor, Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor.
In 1986, he was raised to the rank of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness. He served as rector of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers from 1985 to 1989, and of the North American College in Rome from 1990 to 1994. Returning to New York, he served another term as rector of St. Joseph's from 1994 to 1997.
On February 6, 1996, Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of New York and Titular Bishop of Thizica. He received his episcopal consecration on March 25, 1997, from Cardinal O'Connor in St. Patrick's Cathedral. He chose as his episcopal motto: Pastores Dabo Vobis, meaning, "I will give you shepherds" (Jeremiah 3:15).
Bishop O'Brien was named Coadjutor Archbishop for the Military Services on April 7, 1997. He became Archbishop for the Military Services on August 12 of that year. As archbishop, he served as head of the American Catholic military ordinariate, ministering to 1.5 million Catholics in the armed forces and providing oversight to 300 Catholic chaplains.
For the next decade, he often visited American troops while also working with the North American College. He was greatly involved in the case of Eugene Hamilton, a 25-year-old seminarian who was diagnosed with terminal cancer during the course of his studies. O'Brien successfully petitioned the Vatican for Hamilton's early ordination, and ordained him a priest only hours before he died.
In 1993, he initiated the cause of canonization for Emil Kapaun, a chaplain killed during the Korean War.
From September 2005 to June 2006, Archbishop Lori served in the additional role of the Vatican's coordinator for the Papal Visitation of Seminaries and Houses of Priestly Formation. He initiated reform by calling for a stronger focus on moral theology, increased oversight of seminarians and greater involvement of diocesan bishops in the formation process. He was recognized as being "instrumental in Catholic seminary reform in the wake of clergy sex abuse disclosures."
In May 2007, Archbishop O'Brien became a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education in the Roman Curia.
As head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, he expressed concern about pulling out of the Iraq war too soon. Showing his support of those who serve in the military, he said, "Our troops should remain in Iraq only as long as their presence contributes to a responsible transition." He explained that the United States "must honestly assess what is achievable in Iraq using the traditional just-war principle of 'probability of success,' including the probability of contributing to a responsible transition." (More on this.)
The following July, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him the 15th Archbishop of Baltimore. He was formally installed as Archbishop at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on October 1.
After touring the Archdiocese, O'Brien lamented the large presence of poverty and violence in Baltimore, saying, "I think anybody who wants to take a walk can find areas with very nice homes, well-kept lawns, good streets and sidewalks, and maybe fifteen minutes later find themselves in a neighborhood that is just racked, torn apart, as if a war had just been fought."
On August 29, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop O'Brien as Pro-Grand Master Master of the Equestrian Order (Knights) of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, sending him to Rome. This papal order of knighthood has as its goals: to strengthen in its members the practice of Christian life; to sustain and aid the charitable, cultural, and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; to support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in those lands; and to sustain the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
On January 6, 2012, he was named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. At a February 18 ceremony, he officially became a cardinal. He is the fourth bishop in the 223-year history of the archdiocese to be so honored. Soon after, he was named Grand Master of the Equestrian Order, March 15, 2012.
On Sunday, March 4, 2012, the archdiocese gathered in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to celebrate Cardinal O'Brien’s elevation to the College of Cardinals. Shown in the photo below, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the new Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, offered greetings and congratulations.
This was Cardinal O'Brien's first Mass at the Cathedral as Cardinal.
Priests of the Archdiocese offered congratulations to Cardinal William Keeler celebrating his 81st birthday. Chaplains to Cardinal Keeler are Msgr. Richard Hilgartner, a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Executive Director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Fr. Samuel Young, Pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Parkton.
As a native New Yorker, he is a Yankees fan, and so he joked with parishioners that the red socks (Red Sox) he was expected to don as a Cardinal did not sit well with him.
"I have two pairs which I will never wear again," he said to appreciative laughter.
He is now donating those socks to Catholic Charities.
After the Mass, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano and Bishop Dennis Madden greeted members of the congregation.