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John Wright (Bishop of Pittsburgh) : biography

July 18, 1909 - August 10, 1979

John Joseph Wright (July 18, 1909 – August 10, 1979) was an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy from 1969 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1969.


Early life and ordination

John Joseph Wright was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to John and Harriet (née Cokely) Wright. While attending Boston Latin School, he worked at the Hyde Park branch of the Boston Public Library as stack boy in the evenings and summers. Wright graduated from Boston College in 1931, and then entered St. John's Seminary in Brighton. At the end of his first year at St. John's, he was sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani on December 8, 1935 in the chapel of the North American College.


After his ordination he did graduate work at the Gregorian, earning his Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1936 and his Doctorate of Sacred Theology in 1939. Wright taught philosophy and theology at his alma mater of St. John's Seminary until 1943, when he was appointed private secretary to the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, William Henry O'Connell. Wright continued in this position under O'Connell's successor, Cardinal Richard Cushing, and was raised to the rank of Monsignor on December 17, 1944.

Auxiliary bishop of Boston

On May 10, 1947, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Boston and Titular Bishop of Aegeae. Wright received his episcopal consecration on the following June 30 from Archbishop Cushing, with Bishops Ralph Hayes and James Connelly serving as co-consecrators, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Wright was later named the first Bishop of Worcester on January 28, 1950. In this position, he criticized both Utopians and doom-sayers, and said that an exemplary Christian "[recognizes] the vast errors of which human nature is capable...but [knows] that grace is stronger than sin".TIME Magazine. September 28, 1953

Bishop of Pittsburgh

Wright became the eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh on January 23, 1959, and then attended the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), during which he was decisive force behind several of its documents.TIME Magazine. April 4, 1969 Following the Council's advancements in ecumenism, he believed that an "immediate unity in good works and charity" would arise between Catholics and Protestants.TIME Magazine. December 17, 1965

Congregation for the Clergy

Pope Paul VI appointed Wright as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and thus the highest-ranking American in the Roman Curia, on April 23, 1969.


He was created Cardinal Priest of Gesù Divin Maestro alla Pineta Sacchetti by Pope Paul in the consistory of April 28, 1969. Wright was one of the four cardinals who travelled to Auschwitz in 1972 for a memorial of Maximilian Kolbe; besides John Krol, he was the only other American cardinal to visit Poland.TIME Magazine. October 30, 1972

Wright did not participate in the August 1978 conclave because he was recovering from surgery,TIME Magazine. August 21, 1978 but he was one of the cardinal electors in the conclave of the following October, which selected Pope John Paul II.


The Cardinal's legacy remains somewhat controversial. He was an intellectual who was liberal on social issues, but conservative in theology.TIME Magazine. August 20, 1979 He espoused civil rights and condemned the Vietnam War, but opposed ordination of women and birth control. He believed that annual Synods of Bishops would be useless and burdenful,TIME Magazine. October 31, 1969 and that seven years was the appropriate age for children to receive the Sacrament of Penance, as it might be thus able to correct sinful behavior at an early age.TIME Magazine. September 3, 1973 He also believed that Pope John Paul I would be "a witty Pontiff who delights in combining love of literature with love of the words of God."TIME Magazine. September 4, 1978

Wright died from polymyositis in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at age 70. He is buried in Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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