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Madison Bishop Elected Chairman of Board of Visitors for School of the Americas

By Catholic News Service

FORT BENNING, Ga. (CNS) -- Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis., was elected chairman of the board of visitors of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning.

He replaces Ambassador Jose S. Sorzano, who has been serving as chairman. His continued board membership was term-limited.

The institute, established in 2001 as a successor to the 55-year-old School of the Americas, instructs civilian, military and law enforcement leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere.

The election of Bishop Morlino took place at the board's recent meeting. It was unanimous, with the exception of his own abstention from the vote.

The bishop commented that he was surprised at being invited to be a board member in the first place but even more surprised he was nominated for the chairmanship.

He was appointed to the board in October 2005 by the U.S. secretary of defense and the U.S. secretary of the Army.

The board of visitors is charged with independent review, observation and recommendations regarding the institute's operations, administration and curriculum.

It has 13 members, including members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and representatives from the State Department, U.S. Southern Command, and Army Training and Doctrine Command. Six members are designated by the secretary of defense and represent the human rights, religious, academic and business communities.

Board members, including the congressional representatives, made it clear that in electing Bishop Morlino they sought to emphasize the priority of ethics, human rights, democracy and civilian leadership of the military in the education offered at the Western Hemisphere Institute, known as WHINSEC.

"One of my priests recently wrote to me about my membership on the board calling it an expression of authentic Catholic patriotism," Bishop Morlino commented. "As one who was exempted from the draft when I entered the seminary in the '60s, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my country in a significant way.

"At the same time, I take most seriously the charge symbolized by my election as board chairman, to assure that issues of ethics and human rights always remain top priority, as WHINSEC carries out the mission received from the Congress of the United States," he said.

The board, which meets twice a year, is a body of the Department of Defense, not the institute. Board members are not paid for their service.


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