Cardinal-designate O’Brien has emotional press conference
By George P. Matysek Jr.
In a Jan. 25 press conference at the Catholic Center in Baltimore – his first local appearance since Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal Jan. 6 – Cardinal-designate O’Brien spoke of his fondness for the Baltimore archdiocese. He spoke about the future appointment of his successor and reflected on a wide range of topics including the proposed legalization of same-sex marriage and an upcoming trip to Haiti.
Cardinal-designate O’Brien recalled hearing the pope publically announce his appointment to the College of Cardinals on the Feast of the Epiphany in Rome. Speaking from a papal balcony, the pope read the names of 22 men. Cardinal-designate O’Brien was eighth on the list.
“It was exciting,” Cardinal-designate O’Brien said, choking back emotion. “I just wish I could have been here (in Baltimore), but now I am.”
The cardinal-designate said titles are “very important in many respects, but we know beyond titles goes the work of the church.”
“I’m so pleased that I could share this (honor) while I’m still here serving the church in Baltimore,” he said, calling the people of the Archdiocese of Baltimore his family. “I’m grateful.”
Cardinal-designate O’Brien said he does not know who his successor will be, nor does he know when an announcement will be coming.
“They take their time and they are very thorough in going through lists (of candidates),” he said, “because of Baltimore being the archdiocese that it always has been and still is.”
The cardinal-designate, Pro Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, said he hopes that an announcement will come “in the next two to three weeks.”
“If that’s the case,” he said, “I would think there would be an installation sometime in the middle of March.”
During the ad limina visit, which usually happens every five years to give bishops the opportunity to discuss their dioceses with the pope, Cardinal-designate O’Brien said he met with various Vatican congregations. A 200-page report was sent to Rome outlining the state of the archdiocese since the last ad limina visit seven years ago.
Cardinal-designate O’Brien called the Baltimore archdiocese a “very generous community.” He assured Catholics that ongoing parish planning will continue. It is necessary to reconfigure parishes, he said, because the current parish model has remained virtually unchanged for 50 years – despite significant demographic shifts.
“We have to make sure we are not struggling along with half-filled churches,” he said, “and wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
No decision have been made about the future of parishes, he said.
“We’re getting facts together,” he said. “That’s the biggest favor we can do for an incoming archbishop.”
Cardinal-designate O’Brien said he took no joy in having to consolidate 13 Catholic schools during his Baltimore tenure.
“I didn’t want to do it,” he said, “but I had to do it and I have no regrets in doing it.”
He expressed disappointment that there were not more religious vocations during his time in Baltimore. He hopes his successor will have more success with vocations.
“Without priests, we just don’t have the Eucharist,” he said, “and the Eucharist is what makes the church.”
The cardinal-designate pledged to stand against efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. Marriage has been the foundation of Western civilization, he said, and its definition must not be altered.
“To think that a fiat of a Legislature can turn that over without damage being done is naïve and highly political,” he said.
The cardinal-designate leaves for Haiti Jan. 26 to dedicate a new high school funded with a $1 million donation from a Catholic in the Baltimore archdiocese. He returns to Rome Feb. 13.