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Archbishop Dimino, retired military archbishop, dies at 91

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Coat of arms for the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. (Screenshot)

By Catholic News Service 

WASHINGTON — Retired Archbishop Joseph T. Dimino, who headed the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services for six years, died Nov. 25 in Washington. He was 91.

The native of New York, who was ordained for the Archdiocese of New York in 1949, served in the military chaplaincy for most of his priesthood, before retiring in 1997.

He died in a retirement home in Washington run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, where he had lived for several years.

The military archdiocese said Nov. 26 that funeral arrangements were pending.

Archbishop Dimino was born Jan. 7, 1923, and entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, after attending Cathedral College. He earned a master’s degree at The Catholic University of America in 1962. He had various parish assignments in New York after his ordination and was commissioned a Navy chaplain in 1953. At the time, military chaplains fell under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of New York, within the structure known as the Military Ordinariate.

After 25 years as a Navy chaplain, Father Dimino retired from the service with the rank of captain and was assigned as chancellor of the ordinariate in 1977.

By the time the ordinariate became a formal archdiocese in 1985, he helped through the transition as an auxiliary bishop, having been appointed a bishop in 1983 by St. John Paul II.

When Archbishop John T. Ryan retired in 1991, Bishop Dimino became the second archbishop for the Military Services. He retired at the age of 74 in 1997, after health problems the previous year.

In a 1995 interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Dimino described visiting troops in Italy and Croatia amid preparations to go into the war in Bosnia as part of the NATO peacekeeping force.

He told of flying into Zagreb, Croatia, through a circuitous route because civilian commercial aircraft traffic was barred over the Adriatic at the time. Despite the ongoing war, the archbishop said he saw no destruction and was not worried about his personal safety.

The highlight of his visit was celebrating Mass and a Thanksgiving Day ecumenical service for Americans stationed in Croatia, he told CNS. In the interview, he marveled at the conditions under which chaplains operated in the war zone, including the metal boxes — measuring 12-by-10-by-7-foot-high — that individual officers or two enlisted personnel called home.

Latrines and showers were made from the same metal boxes, he said. Despite the “freezing cold” and unusual living spaces, the archbishop said, “morale was fantastic…. There was no griping or grumbling.”

The military archdiocese provides the full range of the Catholic Church’s pastoral ministries and spiritual services to the men and women — and their families — who serve in the nation’s five military branches, as well as patients at Veterans Affairs medical centers and Foreign Service personnel working outside the United States.

Posted Nov. 26, 2014

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