Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Archbishop emeritus of Denver, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, was born on July 26, 1932 in Baltimore, Maryland (United States of America), the son of F. Emmett and Mary Dorothy Stafford.
He studied at Loyola College, Baltimore (1950-52) and at Saint Mary’s Seminary University, Baltimore (1952-54). He also studied at the Catholic University of America (1962-64).
He was ordained priest on December 15, 1957 in Rome. He served as assistant priest in the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1958-62) and in the Parish of Saint Ann (1964-65), both in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He was also chaplain to Villa Maria, Baltimore (1976-81). After pastoral ministry in various institutions, he was named chaplain of His Holiness in 1969.
He was named titular Bishop of Respetta and Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore on January 19, 1976, and was ordained to the episcopate on February 29, in the Cathedral of Mary Queen of Peace by Archbishop William D. Borders of Baltimore. The co-consecrating Bishops were Cardinal Lawrence Sheehan, Archbishop emeritus of Baltimore, and Bishop Austin Murphy, Auxiliary of Baltimore.
On November 17, 1982, he was named Bishop of Memphis, Tennessee, and on January 18, 1983 he took possession of the Diocese.
On May 30, 1986, he was named Archbishop of Denver, Colorado, and on July 31, he took possession of the Archdiocese.
He has held many positions of responsibility. Co-President of the Dialogue between Roman Catholics and Lutherans, U.S.A. (1984-97); Vicar of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (1976-83); Administrator of the Parish of Saints Philip and James, Baltimore (1980-81); Director of the Associated Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Baltimore (1966-76); Member of the Council of the Center for Metropolitan Planning of Johns Hopkins University (1973-83); President of the Senate of Priests, Archdiocese of Baltimore (1971); Member and then president of the Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops(1984-91).
He was also President of the Catholic Conference of the United States’ Adhoc Committee for the Evaluation of the Catholic Telecommunications Network (1987-89); Member of the NCCB’s Adhoc Committee on Biblical Fundamentalism (1985-87); Member of Council of Administration of the Pope John Center (1986-89); Member of the NCCB’s Dialogue between Roman Catholics and Jews (1988-91): Co-President of the NCCB’s Consultation between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (1988-91); President of the USCC’s Bishops’ Commission on Marriage and Family Life (1978-84); Member of the NCCB’s Commission on Doctrine (1978-84); Member of the Ordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family (1980); Co-President of the Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and Roman Catholics of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Rome (1977-87); Member of the Council of Administration of the Pontifical North American College (1989-96); Member of the Council of Administration of the Catholic University of America (1990-96); Member of the Congregation for Bishops’ Adhoc Commission on Episcopal Conferences (1990-92).
Resigned as Archbishop of Denver, August 20, 1996, he was named President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on August 20, 1996, succeeding Cardinal Eduardo Pironio in the position.
As President of the Council, he organized the twelfth World Youth Day which took place in Paris in August 1997. At the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration at Longchamp on Sunday August 24, Archbishop Stafford expressed to the Pope the gratitude of all the young people gathered in Paris where, he said, there was born a new "revolution of love". "You have said to our young people" - were the Archbishop’s words to the Pope – "that the heart of Christian love lies in the scandal of the Cross. This means a great overturning, where the first will be last and vice versa. Accepting your invitation, many have shown in this way their free acceptance of the Gospel in their lives."
Previously in 1993, as Archbishop of Denver, he had welcomed Pope John Paul II to the city chosen for the 8th World Youth Day. Archbishop Stafford introduced the people of Colorado to the Pope. "We have come together to listen to your prophetic message", he said at the start of the Mass celebrated on the Feast of the Assumption at the conclusion of the World Youth Day.
At the American Synod on November 25, 1995 at the Thirteenth General Congregation he spoke on the theme, "The Laity in the Culture of Disillusionment". "How can the Church catechize in a world of virtual reality?" he asked at the Synod. "The formation of lay people for communio assumes great importance in a dechristianized culture."
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, August 20, 1996-October 4, 2003. As president of the council, he organized the international meetings of the 12th World Youth Day in Paris in 1987; the 15th World Youth Day held in Rome-Tor Vergata during the Jubilee Year 2000 and the 17th World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada in 2002.
Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, October 4, 2003.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the Consistory of February 21, 1998, of the Deaconry of Good Shepherd at Montagnola.
- Doctrine of the Faith, Bishops, Causes of Saints, Evangelization of Peoples (congregations)
- Legislative Texts (council)
- Special Council for Oceania of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops