By Mary Bubala

BALTIMORE (WJZ)— The leader of the Baltimore Archdiocese will soon hold one of the most powerful positions inside the Catholic Church. On Friday, Pope Benedict named Archbishop Edwin O’Brien a cardinal.

Mary Bubala reports.

Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien is one of just two American church leaders named cardinal by the pope Friday at the Vatican with hundreds looking on.

WJZ spoke with now Cardinal designate O’Brien from Rome.

“I knew it was going to happen, but I am a fatalist. I still didn’t believe it would from the very beginning of this thing when I heard rumors,” O’Brien said in a telephone interview. “It’s special, unique, and it’s an honor and a responsibility.”

Local parishioners are reacting to the news. In the history of the Catholic Church here in Baltimore, this has only happened three other times – in 1994, 1965 and 1886.

“It’s just great. It’s a feather in Baltimore’s cap, and certainly it’s an honor for him to be respected this way and to have the pope acknowledge the great service he’s done,” said Rob Mintz, parishioner.

“It’s a great honor, and for Catholics it brings a lot of blessings to the city, as well,” said Rose Zuffi, parishioner.

O’Brien came to Baltimore in 2007, succeeding Cardinal William Keeler.

During O’Brien’s time in Maryland he worked to reverse declining enrollment in Catholic schools.

Then last year, the pope appointed O’Brien to lead a Catholic order in Rome. He will continue to serve Baltimore until a successor is installed.

“I am happy that the nomination came out while I am still in a leadership position in Baltimore,” O’Brien said. “The church is the light of so many lives. So often the only time we make headlines is when things don’t go too well. We are not perfect, but we are doing our best, and I think we are accomplishing a lot.”

O’Brien will be back in Baltimore later this month before leaving for a mission in Haiti. The Vatican will hold a ceremony to formally elevate all the cardinal candidates Feb. 18.

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