Archbishop Philip M. Hannan Biography


Philip Matthew Hannan (May 20, 1913 – September 29, 2011) was an American Roman Catholic Archbishop. Archbishop Hannan, in his episcopal career, served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and later as the Eleventh Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans from September 29, 1965 to December 6, 1988Education and ordination

Hannan attended high school at St. John’s College High School in northwest Washington, D.C, where he was a leader in both scholastic work and sports activities. He captained the winning cadet company in his senior year there. Before high school graduation, he surprised his family by saying that instead of taking the entrance exam to gain admittance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he would become a priest. He then began college studies at St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland, and then at the Sulpician Seminary (known now as Theological College) affiliated with The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Following his studies at The Catholic University of America, where he received a Master’s Degree, Hannan studied from 1936 to 1939 as a major seminarian at the North American College in Rome, where he personally witnessed the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany. He would later write a biographical account, Rome: Living under the Axis, detailing his experiences in Rome. He received a Licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and later earned a Doctorate in Canon Law from Catholic University. Hannan was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore-Washington by His Excellency, The Most Reverend Ralph Hayes, Rector of the Pontifical North American College (and later Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa) on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1939.

The newly-ordained Father Hannan remained in Rome until the following summer (1940), when all American seminarians were ordered to leave by the U.S. Secretary of State to maintain their personal safety. He returned to the United States (celebrating his first Mass in the States at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. on June 16, 1940), and spent the next two years as a curate (assistant pastor, or parochial vicar) at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

World War II

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, then-Father Hannan enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as a chaplain to the 82nd Airborne Division. Father Hannan parachuted into Europe with the rest of his division and ministered to the paratroopers during the Ardennes Offensive. Father Hannan was also with American soldiers during the ending of the European War and afterward, as they began to uncover the Nazi horrors during the liberation of starved prisoners at the Wöbbelin concentration camp.

After the war, Hannan served briefly as pastor of the Cologne Cathedral during the American occupation of Germany.

Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, D.C.

He returned to the United States and served for a time as an assistant priest at St. Mary Mother of God parish in Chinatown in the Archdiocese of Baltimore-Washington.[1] When the archdiocese of Washington was split from the archdiocese of Baltimore on November 15, 1947, with separate archbishops being appointed for them, Hannan became a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington and in 1948 was appointed vice chancellor of that Archdiocese.

In 1951, Hannan established the Catholic Standard newspaper in Washington and served as its editor-in-chief. Later that same year he was named chancellor of the Archdiocese, and Pope Pius XII honored Father Hannan in 1952 by naming him a Monsignor. On June 16, 1956, Hannan was named Titular Bishop of Hieropolis and Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, and was consecrated in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on August 28.

As Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, Hannan was part of the U.S. delegation to the Second Vatican Council, where he served as a press officer. Until his death in 2011, Hannan was one of two living United States bishops to have attended all four sessions of Vatican II, along with Raymond Hunthausen, Archbishop Emeritus of Seattle, Washington.

During his 9 years as Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, and because of his skills as a press officer in both Baltimore and Washington, Hannan became acquainted with several prominent politicians, especially the Kennedy family. It was his familiarity with the Kennedys that would move Hannan into the national spotlight.

Hannan was in Rome for meetings of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council in November 1963 when news reached him concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which forced his immediate return to Washington. At Kennedy’s state funeral mass, Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, served as the principal celebrant. Cushing was a close friend of the family who had witnessed and blessed the marriage of Senator Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, baptized two of their children, given the invocation at President Kennedy’s inauguration, and officiated at the recent funeral of the President’s infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. Hannan, however, was asked by the Kennedy family to deliver the homily at the Requiem Mass, which substituted for a formal eulogy, since a traditional eulogy was not permitted by the Catholic Church. This responsibility normally would have fallen to the Archbishop of Washington at the time, Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, but he generously allowed his assistant to do so.[6] In 1968, he returned to Washington from New Orleans to deliver the graveside eulogy for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and in 1994, he offered graveside prayers at the interment of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in Arlington National Cemetery.