.- You don’t have to be named O’Brien to become a cardinal, but it seems to help. Just after Cardinal Edwin O’Brien became a member of the College of Cardinals on Feb. 18, he was welcomed by a man with the same last name, Cardinal Keith O’Brien from Scotland.
“O’Briens are descendents of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, and I’m sure Edwin, like me, can trace his ancestry directly back to him.
“So it is only fitting that the two of us should be Princes of the Church at this present time,” laughed the Scottish Cardinal O’Brien.
The American Cardinal O’Brien was also amused that their family name is currently the only one to appear twice in the 213-member list of the Church’s Sacred College of Cardinals.
“I know there have been a lot of O’Brien bishops, but I doubt there have ever been two Cardinal O’Briens. It’s a great distinction, and I thought of that pretty soon after I was appointed,” the American cardinal told CNA.
The two men met at the Rome headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien was appointed their Pro-Grand Master by Pope Benedict in Aug. 2011. The order supports the Church in the Holy Land, particularly the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, through prayer and good works.
Coincidentally, Cardinal Keith O’Brien is also a member of the order.
He explained to CNA that their next Scottish investiture is later this year and will include a pilgrimage to the historic island of Iona, the launching pad from which St. Columba re-evangelized much of Europe in the 6th century.
“Given Americans’ love of history and heritage, I do hope that Cardinal O’Brien, or ‘Cardinal Edwin’ as we will call him to distinguish between us, will be able to join us for that.”
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien said he didn’t know much about his Scottish counterpart, although he had read enough to know “he is a very strong leader” among the bishops of the British Isles in “speaking up for the Church.”
In return, the Scottish cardinal said he also knew “a little” of his fellow cardinal’s work in Baltimore, and was “delighted” to have him as a fellow member of the Sacred College where both, being under the age of 80, are eligible to vote for the next Pope.
“I just hope that when there’s a conclave for a new Pope that they get the initials right and don’t mix us up in any way at all, if we are ever considered to be in the running,” joked Cardinal Keith O’Brien.