Saturday, April 8, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — Cardinal William H. Keeler, the archbishop of Baltimore, has submitted the letter of resignation required of bishops when they turn 75, and he will await Pope Benedict XVI’s decision on whether to accept it.

Cardinal Keeler, who turned 75 in March, said he is in good health and whether he remains head of the diocese is out of his hands.

“It’s simply up to my superiors,” he told the Baltimore Examiner. “They will decide when I should step down. In that decision, I will find out what is God’s will for me.”

Observers think Cardinal Keeler will remain archbishop.

“That would be my great hope,” said Monsignor Joseph L. Luca of St. Louis Church in Clarksville, Md. “For me, personally, he has always taught by example. He has always remained essentially a priest at heart — a pastor concerned with what is best for his people.”

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, offered his resignation July 7, 2005, his 75th birthday. He heard from the Vatican in August that he would stay longer. Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdioceses of Washington, said yesterday the cardinal was told he could remain for two more years but anticipates a more definitive answer before the end of this year.

Cardinal Keeler has served as archbishop of Baltimore since 1989. In that time, he has maintained a unique interfaith dialogue with local Jewish leaders. He also has worked with the Baltimore area’s many Catholic schools and three Catholic colleges — Loyola, Notre Dame and Mt. St. Mary’s.

He has overseen the restoration of the historic Baltimore Basilica, which is scheduled to reopen Nov. 4. He also marked his 50th anniversary in the priesthood in July.

“The biggest challenge I see today is passing on a living faith to the our current generation and the next, and trying to get them to understand why it is so important,” Cardinal Keeler said.

In 1994, the cardinal presented Baltimore to visiting Pope John Paul II.

“Cardinal Keeler’s gift to our city has been in his ability to bring people together — across lines of race, class and faith,” Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley said. “We’ve looked to him for strength in times of great tragedy and great joy. And I’m guessing the Holy Father is going to bless us with his leadership for another five years.”

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