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Pope names O’Brien as cardinal

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday named the 15th archbishop of Baltimore, 72-year-old Edwin F. O’Brien, to the rank of cardinal.

O’Brien was named to the College of Cardinals, along with 21 others, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said in a statement. As cardinal, O’Brien will serve as an adviser to the pope and be eligible to vote in a papal election until his 80th birthday.

O’Brien served in Baltimore from October 2007 until August 2011, when the pope appointed him grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The order supports schools, health institutions and a variety of basic needs for the poorest people of all faiths in the region. Since his appointment, O’Brien has served in the caretaker role of apostolic administrator in Baltimore and will continue to lead the Catholic diocese until a successor is installed.

O’Brien was in Rome for the ordination of a new bishop at the time of the announcement and said he was humbled by the news, the archdiocese said.

“This is an honor I humbly accept and proudly share with the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” O’Brien said in the statement. “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.”

Before becoming archbishop in Baltimore, O’Brien served for 10 years as head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services. He has also served as a chaplain at the United States Military Academy in West Point, at Fort Bragg and in Vietnam. Ordained as a priest in 1965, O’Brien has also served as rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York and at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, established in 1789, was the first Catholic diocese in the United States. It covers the city of Baltimore and the counties of Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard and Washington.

The pope said Friday that the cardinals will be elevated in a formal ceremony Feb. 18. The other prelates named as cardinals come from New York, Hong Kong, Berlin, Prague, Toronto and Florence, Italy, and some key Vatican offices. Of the 22, 18 are under 80 — raising to 125 the numbers of cardinals eligible to vote in a papal conclave.