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John Joseph Wright

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His Eminence 
John Joseph Wright
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
See Pittsburgh (emeritus)
Enthroned April 23, 1969
Reign ended August 10, 1979
Predecessor Jean-Marie Villot
Successor Silvio Oddi
Ordination December 8, 1935
Consecration May 10, 1947
Created Cardinal April 28, 1969
Other Bishop of Pittsburgh (1959-69)
Bishop of Worcester (1950-59)
Personal details
Born July 18, 1909(1909-07-18)
Dorchester, Massachusetts
Died August 10, 1979 (aged 70)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Styles of
John Cardinal Wright
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Pittsburgh (emeritus)

John Joseph Cardinal Wright (July 18, 1909 – August 10, 1979) was an American prelate 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 the Dorchester, Massachusetts, to John and Harriet (née Cokel) 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 Francesco Cardinal 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 Archbishop of Boston, William Cardinal O'Connell. Wright continued in this position under O'Connell's successor, 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"[1].

Bishop of Pittsburgh

Wright became the eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh on January 23, 1959, and then attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), during which he was decisive force behind several of its documents[2]. Following the Council's advancements in ecumenism, he believed that an "immediate unity in good works and charity" would arise between Catholics and Protestants[3].

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 Cardinal Krol, he was the only other American cardinal to visit Poland[4].

Wright did not participate in the August 1978 conclave because he was recovering from surgery[5], 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[6]. He espoused civil rights and condemned the Vietnam War, but opposed Ordination of women and Birth control. He also believed that annual Synods of Bishops would be useless and burdenful[7], 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[8].

Wright died from polymyositis in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at age 70[6]. He is buried in Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts.


  • His father John was a paper-factory clerk.
  • The Cardinal 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"[9].
  • Wright was very knowledgeable about St. Joan of Arc[6].
  • He ate Boston baked beans almost every Saturday[10].



  1. TIME Magazine. Substitute for Pollyanna September 28, 1953
  2. TIME Magazine. Princely Promotions April 4, 1969
  3. TIME Magazine. How Vatican II Turned the Church Toward the World December 17, 1965
  4. TIME Magazine. Pilgrim in Poland October 30, 1972
  5. TIME Magazine. In Search of a Pope August 21, 1978
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 TIME Magazine. Milestones August 20, 1979
  7. TIME Magazine. Reformists in Command October 31, 1969
  8. TIME Magazine. When to Confess September 3, 1973
  9. TIME Magazine. Compassionate Shepherd September 4, 1978
  10. Ibid.


  • Glenn, Francis A. (1993). Shepherds of the Faith 1843-1993: A Brief History of the Bishops of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh: Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. ISBN none. 

External links

Preceded by
Bishop of Worcester
Succeeded by
Bernard Flanagan
Preceded by
John Dearden
Bishop of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by
Vincent Leonard
Preceded by
Jean-Marie Villot
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
Succeeded by
Silvio Oddi
no:John Joseph Wright

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