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Archbishop Hannan, Former Archbishop of New Orleans, Dead At 98

September 29, 2011
Confidant of President John F. Kennedy
Participated in all four sessions of Second Vatican Council
Built extraordinary social services network in New Orleans Archdiocese

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Philip Matthew Hannan, who had a ringside seat in world and church history, died September 29, in New Orleans. He was 98.

He had suffered a series of strokes and died in Chateau de Notre Dame, a senior apartment complex he had envisioned and then dedicated in 1977. He served as Archbishop of New Orleans, 1965-1988, where he expanded social services throughout the archdiocese and established an educational television service, WLAE.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond, current archbishop of New Orleans, noted the Washington native’s love for New Orleans.

“He was a man of the Church, a man who loved God, and certainly a man who loved God’s people. He was a great shepherd for us, and he was also a true New Orleanian. He made New Orleans his home,” Archbishop Aymond said.

“He could deal with presidents like President John Kennedy, and he could also deal with the homeless. He had a great love for the poor, and much of the ministry that we do today in the archdiocese is to continue to build on who Archbishop Hannan was and what he has done for our archdiocese.”

Archbishop Hannan’s brush with history began when he was a seminarian and young priest at North American College in Rome and saw events leading to the breakout of World War II in Europe. He left Rome for home in Washington when U.S. seminarians and priests were ordered out of Rome by the U.S. secretary of state for their safety. Shortly afterwards, in 1942, he became a paratroop chaplain and served with the 505th Parachute Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was nicknamed “The Jumping Padre” and his autobiography, published in 2010, was titled “The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots.”

He was ordained auxiliary bishop of Washington in 1956 and struck up a behind-the-scenes friendship with then-Congressman John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic to be elected President of the United States. At Jacqueline Kennedy’s request, he delivered the eulogy of the assassinated leader in 1963 at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington. Five years later he delivered the graveside eulogy for the president’s brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy. In 1994 he delivered graveside prayers at the burial of the President’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Arlington National Cemetery.

Archbishop Hannan was the third oldest U.S. bishop when he died and the last surviving U.S. bishop to have attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) as a bishop. He addressed the council twice, once on “The Role of the Laity” and the other on “Nuclear Warfare,” when he argued for the morality of nuclear deterrence.


Keywords: Archbishop Philip Hannon, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Catholic, Christian, President John F. Kennedy, New Orleans, World War II

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Sr. Mary Ann Walsh

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