1875: The First American Cardinal – John McCloskey

1875: The First American Cardinal – John McCloskey
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 15. March 1875
  • John McCloskey, the Archbishop of New York, was the first American ever to be appointed a cardinal of the Catholic Church. The famous Cathedral of St. Patrick in the Fifth Avenue, which is today the cathedral of the of the Archbishop of New York, was completed and consecrated precisely at the time of Cardinal McCloskey.

On this day in 1875 Pope Pius IX (who later became a Blessed of the Catholic Church) made American archbishop John McCloskey a cardinal.

At that moment, John McCloskey was the Archbishop of New York, and thus became the first American ever to be appointed a cardinal of the Catholic Church. As cardinal, McCloskey was given the titular church Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.

John McCloskey was born in 1810 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were of Irish descent, and had moved to American only around two years before their son was born.

At the time of John’s childhood, Brooklyn didn’t have even a single Catholic church, so he and his parents had to go to Manhattan to attend Mass.

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John McCloskey

In 1864 John McCloskey became the Archbishop of New York, the second in the history of that archdiocese (the first was John Joseph Hughes). At the time when McCloskey became Archbishop, New York’s Catholic cathedral was located in Mulberry Street, in the center of the so-called Little Italy.

However, a new cathedral was being built at that time – the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Fifth Avenue. Today, that building stands opposite the Rockefeller Center in New York.

Cardinal McCloskey was the first in a series of around 50 U.S. citizens who have so far become cardinals. However, very few Americans were appointed cardinals before the 20th century – apart from McCloskey, the only other American cardinal was James Gibbons, the Archbishop of Baltimore.

Even in the period between 1900 and 1945, only four cardinals were appointed in the USA.

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