Son of Hickey, Heir of Carroll -- Bishop Lori Headed for Baltimore

From its founding in the lone American colony founded by Catholics, the Premier See of Baltimore and its illustrious occupants have stood as a preeminent icon of religious freedom in these States. And now, the golden thread of that 223-year line is set to continue powerfully in the choice of its 16th archbishop.As soon as tomorrow, sources tell Whispers that Pope Benedict will name Bishop William Lori, 60 -- leader of Connecticut's Bridgeport diocese since 2001 -- as the next head of the nation's oldest local church, first led for 18 years by John Carroll, a cousin of the lone Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and founder of the nation's first Catholic university at Georgetown shortly after his appointment in 1789.In the post whose holder remains, by Roman decree, the "first among equals" of the American bishops, the Kentucky native would succeed Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, the freshly-named Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. O'Brien remains Apostolic Administrator of the 550,000-member archdiocese until his successor's installation.Long buzzed about as a top prospect for any number of metropolitan posts, especially heavy speculation had tipped Lori for the Baltimore nod since weeks after O'Brien's August appointment to the Rome-based office that coordinates support for the church's works in the Holy Land.Ordained a priest for the archdiocese of Washington in 1977 and an auxiliary there in 1995, the theologian-prelate -- long a high-profile figure on the Stateside bench -- has come into an even more intense focus over recent months as the appointed head of the bishops' ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, and thus the church's quarterback in the recent surge against the contraceptive mandate of the Federal health-care reform law.In addition to the religious freedom chair, Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. The bishop was likewise chair of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, the Catholic University of America, from 2003 to 2009.As ever, more to come.-30-