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Doctors are optimistic that retired Seattle Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett will recover from the stroke he suffered this week.

“They were very encouraging,” said Greg Magnoni, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle. “They are hopeful that his speech and cognitive ability will not be seriously impaired.”

Brunett is right-handed, and the stroke appears to have primarily affected the left side of his body, Magnoni added.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain led prayers Friday during Mass at St. James Cathedral for his predecessor’s recovery. Sartain was with Brunett at the hospital before and after his surgery.

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The 79-year-old Brunett was playing golf Sept. 12 in Bellevue when he suffered the stroke, Magnoni said. “He’s an extremely energetic, active person, so it came as quite a surprise to all of us.”

He was treated at Overlake Hospital Medical Center, where surgeons removed a blood clot from his brain. Brunett has not spoken since the surgery, Magnoni said, but he was able to understand and respond to a request to squeeze someone’s hand.

Brunett was the spiritual leader of Western Washington’s nearly one million Catholics from 1997 until his retirement in 2010.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Brunett to temporarily lead the Diocese of Oakland until a new bishop was selected. Brunett returned to Seattle earlier this year, taking up residence in an apartment near St. James Cathedral.

He has remained active in the church, performing liturgies throughout the sprawling archdiocese.

A Detroit native, Brunett was serving as the Bishop of Helena, Mont., when he was selected to lead the Seattle Archdiocese after the death of Archbishop Thomas Murphy.

Murphy succeeded the Most Rev. Raymond Hunthausen, who served as archbishop from 1975 to 1991. The 92-year-old Hunthausen now lives in Montana.

Under Brunett’s leadership, the Seattle diocese expanded its services to the poor. He also helped guide the diocese through the church’s sex-abuse scandals.

Sandi Doughton at: 206-464-2491 or

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