Martin John O'Connor

Martin John O'Connor
Styles of
Martin O'Connor
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Archbishop
Posthumous style none

Martin John O'Connor (May 18, 1900—December 1, 1986) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as rector of the Pontifical North American College (1946–64) and president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (1948–71).


Early life and education

Martin O'Connor was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Martin John and Belinda Catherine (née Caffrey) O'Connor.[1] His parents died when he was young.[2] He received his early education at James Madison Elementary School, but was later transferred to the district's administration building to attend advanced classes.[3] He entered St. Thomas High School at age 12, and enrolled at St. Thomas College three years later.[3] He graduated from St. Thomas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1918.[1]

O'Connor then began his studies for the priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.[1] He continued his studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.[4] While a student at the Catholic University, he enlisted in the Army after the United States entered World War I.[4] He resumed his studies when the armistice was signed.[4] O'Connor was then sent to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.[5] He earned a doctorate in theology from the Urban College of Propaganda in 1925.[1]


On March 15, 1924, O'Connor was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Scranton at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.[6] Following his return to Scranton, he was assigned as a curate at St. Peter's Cathedral, where he served from 1925 to 1927.[1] He then returned to Rome to further his studies, and earned a doctorate in canon law from the Apollinare University in 1929.[1] From 1929 to 1935, he was secretary to Bishop Thomas Charles O'Reilly and chancellor of the diocese.[1] He served as an associate editor of the diocesan newspaper, Catholic Light, from 1929 to 1932.[2]

From 1934 to 1943, O'Connor was pastor of St. Peter's Cathedral.[4] He was named a papal chamberlain in 1931, and raised to the rank of domestic prelate in 1936.[1] In addition to his pastoral duties, he became vicar general of the diocese in 1938.[7]


On November 14, 1942, O'Connor was appointed auxiliary bishop of Scranton and titular bishop of Thespiae by Pope Pius XII.[6] He received his episcopal consecration on January 27, 1943 from Bishop William Joseph Hafey, with Bishops Gerald O'Hara and George L. Leech serving as co-consecrators, at St. Peter's Cathedral.[6] As an auxiliary bishop, he continued to serve as vicar general of the diocese, a post which he held until 1946.[1] He also served as pastor of St. Mary's Church in Wilkes-Barre from 1943 to 1946.[2]

O'Connor was named rector of the North American College in Rome on November 26, 1946.[6] He would remain in this post until 1964, and during his tenure the college, which had closed in 1940 when Italy entered World War II, reopened in 1948[8] and later moved to a new location atop Janiculum Hill[9]. Supposedly, O'Connor once said that his mission was "to educate others in gracious dining and papal protocol," to which Joe Kennedy responded, "Don't be such an ass."[10] He is also believed to have disapproved of Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi's appointment as Apostolic Delegate to the United States.[11]

Pius XII, with the establishment of the Curial office of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, named Bishop O'Connor as its first president in January 1948. He was named an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne in 1953.[1] In November 1954, he was appointed a counselor of the Congregation of Seminaries and Universities.[12] He was raised to Titular Archbishop of Laodicea in Syria on September 5, 1959. O'Connor attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965.[6] During the preparatory stages of the Council, he was named to head the press secretariat in June 1960.[13] As head of the secretariat, he drafted a constitution dealing with the social media of communication, including the press, motion pictures, radio, and television.[14] In September 1963, in response to complaints by journalists about the lack of news sources, he was appointed to head a new press committee for the second session of the Council.[15]

He became the first Nuncio to Malta on December 15, 1965. His appointment marked the first time a papal ambassador had been sent to a country in the United Kingdom since the Protestant Reformation. O'Connor, who resigned his diplomatic post in May 1969, also resigned his Curial post on September 8, 1971, after thirty-three years of service. He returned to the United States in 1980.[2]

O'Connor died at Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, at age 86.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "M.J. O'Connor, 86; Archbishop Served Vatican 2 Decades". The New York Times. 1986-12-03. 
  3. ^ a b Gallagher, John P. (1968). A Century of History: The Diocese of Scranton, 1868-1968. Diocese of Scranton. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Consecrated as Bishop Of Scranton, Pa., Diocese". The New York Times. 1943-01-28. 
  5. ^ "A Versatile Prelate: Martin John O'Connor". The New York Times. 1962-11-24. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Archbishop Martin John O'Connor". 
  7. ^ "Bishop Named Rector Of College in Rome". The New York Times. 1946-11-22. 
  8. ^ TIME Magazine. Yankee Seminarians October 19, 1959
  9. ^ The Pontifical North American College. A Brief History of the North American College
  10. ^ National Catholic Reporter. Politics in the Purple Kingdom: The Derailment of Vatican II. - book reviews December 10, 1993
  11. ^ Ibid.
  12. ^ "Pope Names U.S. Bishop to Post". The New York Times. 1954-11-12. 
  13. ^ "Pope Appoints Press Aide". The New York Times. 1960-06-21. 
  14. ^ "MEDIA GUIDANCE WEIGHED IN ROME; Document on Church's Role Pleases Vatican Council". The New York Times. 1962-11-24. 
  15. ^ "PRESS CHIEF NAMED BY VATICAN COUNCIL". The New York Times. 1963-09-08. 

External links

Preceded by
J. Gerald Kealy
Rector of the Pontifical North American College
Succeeded by
Francis Frederick Reh
Preceded by
President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
Succeeded by
Andrzej Maria Deskur
Preceded by
Nuncio to the Malta
Succeeded by
Giuseppe Mojoli

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