Pope names Baltimore native to head council on lay people

August 21, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, a Baltimore native, was appointed president of the Vatican's council on lay people by Pope John Paul II yesterday.

Stafford, 64, served as director of Associated Catholic Charities in Baltimore from 1966 to 1976. That year he was elevated to auxiliary bishop. He left Baltimore in 1983, but he has remained close to the Baltimore Archdiocese and is widely credited for the Pope's decision to visit the city last year.

"To his new responsibilities Archbishop Stafford brings a deep faith, a warm spirit and an extraordinary ability to convey both the faith and the spirit to others," said Cardinal William Keeler.

Stafford reportedly impressed the Pope during the pontiff's visit to Denver in 1993. He will be the first American to assume the presidency of the Council for the Laity, which encourages lay apostolic works and coordinates World Youth Day, a gathering of young Catholics.

One of his priorities will be to promote relations between lay Catholics in North America and Latin America. "I think the Holy Father may hope that I may be a bridge between the north and south of our hemisphere," Stafford said.

Born in Baltimore on July 26, 1932, Stafford grew up on Montrose Avenue in Catonsville.

A graduate of Loyola High Schooland Loyola College, he was ordained in December 1957 and offered his first Mass at St. Agnes Church the following year.

Stafford says he visits relatives in Baltimore twice a year.

Beginning in his Baltimore years, Stafford has been an outspoken social critic, arguing against cuts in aid to the poor.

Stafford also has been active in several national efforts to build bridges between Catholics and Protestant evangelicals.

Pub Date: 8/21/96

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