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 CNS Story:

HANNAN-SAINTS Feb-1-2010 (630 words) With photo. xxxn

Archbishop Hannan pulling for New Orleans Saints to march in

By Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Retired Archbishop Philip M. Hannan of New Orleans said "it would be tremendous" if his city's team, the Saints, beat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV Feb. 7 in Miami.

"As a matter of fact, if it happens, the downtown parish of the city will simply explode," he told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, current head of the archdiocese, and Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein placed a friendly wager on the game.

"If we win, he owes me some southern Indiana pork chops, and if they win, I owe him some gumbo," Archbishop Aymond said. "It should be fun."

But it was Archbishop Hannan, now 96, who was there at the beginning, when the Saints and their fans were "newly minted," as editor Peter Finney Jr. of the Clarion Herald recounted in his column for the Feb. 6 issue of the newspaper.

The archbishop, who headed the archdiocese from 1965-88, even helped name the Saints. According to Finney, the archbishop reassured then-Gov. John McKeithen "that he did not consider the nickname sacrilegious. 'But I have to tell you,' he told McKeithen, 'from the viewpoint of the church, most of the saints were martyrs.'"

Archbishop Hannan was invited to offer the invocation before the kickoff of the Saints' first game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 7, 1967, "in front of 80,000 newly minted Saints fans at sold-out Tulane Stadium."

Titled "Prayer for the Saints," his words are "every bit as fresh today," Finney said, suggesting the prayer might be something the long-suffering fans of the Saints -- playing in their first Super Bowl -- would want to recite before the kickoff of the big game:

"God, we ask your blessing upon all who participate in this event, and all who have supported our Saints. Our heavenly Father, who has instructed us that the 'saints by faith conquered kingdoms ... and overcame lions,' grant our Saints an increase of faith and strength so that they will not only overcome the Lions, but also the Bears, the Rams, the Giants and even those awesome people in Green Bay.

"May they continue to tame the Redskins and fetter the Falcons as well as the Eagles. Give to our owners and coaches the continued ability to be as wise as serpents and simple as doves, so that no good talent will dodge our draft. Grant to our fans perseverance in their devotion and unlimited lung power, tempered with a sense of charity to all, including the referees.

"May our beloved 'Bedlam Bowl' be a source of good fellowship, and may the 'Saints Come Marching In' be a victory march for all, now and in eternity."

Finney said that in 1967 "the crowd erupted," and a "miracle ensued," with the Saints leading 7-0, "just 12 seconds in." The team eventually lost but it didn't matter, he said.

"Flash forward 43 years -- 40 years of wandering in the football desert plus three. Archbishop Hannan is 96, and he is still marching, one foot in front of the other, and he is inspiring all true believers with the way he has rebounded from a recent stroke," Finney wrote.

The archbishop was scheduled to fly to Washington to spend time with his brother, Denis, 93, who is gravely ill, then return to New Orleans and fly to Miami on team owner Tom Benson's plane to watch "the unfolding of a long-awaited vision": the Saints in the Super Bowl."

"As a matter of fact, Tom Benson has been praying for this every day," Archbishop Hannan said. "I'd say we have a big opportunity. I tell everyone, in fact, that we are going to win. This would be good not only for the Saints but for all the people who support them."


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