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Boston College alumnus takes over the military archdiocese

By Father Robert M. O’Grady
Posted: 2/1/2008

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Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio arrives for his installation Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 25. Archbishop Broglio, a Cleveland native, is the new head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. CNS photo/Bob Roller


Washington -- In an almost three hour long solemn Mass, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio was installed as the fourth archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services of the United States of America on Jan. 25. The Mass was celebrated at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The huge church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under her title as patroness of our country serves as the “cathedral” of the only American diocese without territorial borders. Interestingly, it can be said the archdiocese’s borders are actually the whole globe.

With responsibility for all the men and women of the United States Armed Services, those in Departments of Veterans Affairs, especially the Veterans Hospitals, and all Catholic personnel of the United States Department of State serving in embassies and consulates across the globe, as well as all the dependents and family members, the archdiocese has a Catholic population approaching 2 million.

There is a double reason for interest in the new archbishop for the Archdiocese of Boston. First, our archdiocese has more than a dozen priests serving as chaplains in the Air Force, Army, Navy and Veterans Administration. There are also several priests who serve as reserve chaplains in the various branches. The second reason is that the archbishop lived in the archdiocese, specifically at Boston College where he received his undergraduate degree in Classics in 1973.

A Cleveland native, the archbishop studied at Rome’s Gregorian University receiving four degrees from the international Jesuit University. He was ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1977 and served for a short time in a parish in the Cleveland Diocese. He returned to Rome and entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and served in nunciatures in the Ivory Coast and Paraguay.

He returned to Rome in 1990 and served for the next almost 11 years as the right hand man for Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the then-secretary of state of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II.

The Holy Father named him titular archbishop of Amiternum and apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic and apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico on Feb. 27, 2001. The pope ordained him a bishop a few weeks later in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 19. The esteem and affection the archbishop won in his years in both assignments was underlined by the dozen or so bishops coming from their warm native lands on the frigid January day, including two familiar names to Bostonians: San Juan’s present Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez, OFM (a former auxiliary of the archdiocese) and the previous archbishop of San Juan, Cardinal Luis Aponte, an alumnus of St. John’s Seminary.

Also participating in the installation Mass were some 40 bishops, almost 200 priests and several hundred people including the new archbishop’s siblings and his nieces and nephews. With his new headquarters in the nation’s capital, he quipped to his family “We won’t need passports to visit each other, now.”

The installation Mass was celebrated on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, one of the archbishop’s baptismal patrons. He promised that he would try to follow Paul’s example in preaching the Gospel truth and doing it energetically and with a missionary zeal.

The archbishop has placed on his coat of arms an interesting device or symbol. Alternating blue and silver wavy bars (similar to those at the base of the Boston archdiocesan coat of arms) primarily a reminder of baptism, but also of the bodies of water that have marked the archbishop’s life: Cleveland’s Lake Erie, our own Charles River; Rome’s Tiber River; the Paraguay River and the Atlantic Ocean.