Cardinal Dolan happy with new role but would rather be a saint

By David Kerr

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan greets a pilgrim couple at the North American College after the Feb. 18, 2012 consistory

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York says he is happy to be a cardinal but that he is aiming for a higher calling.

“As grateful as I am for being a Cardinal, I really want to be a saint,” Cardinal Dolan said to the media after the Feb. 18 ceremony. “I mean that, and I’ve got a long way to go but it is all about holiness, it is all about friendship with Jesus and it is all about being a saint. And that’s what I want to be.”

Cardinal Dolan said he was particularly moved by the announcement of two new American saints at the conclusion of the consistory.

In total, Pope Benedict announced seven new saints who will be canonized on Oct. 21. The group includes Blesseds Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha, who will become the first Native American to be declared a saint.

Cardinal Dolan said he recognized this week that his elevation means having to resist the unholy lure of power and prestige.

“I said, ‘Dolan you got temptations.’ I’ve always had them, but now I’ve got one that could go to my head – literally,” he said, pointing to his new red biretta hat. He told himself,” ‘you can’t (let that happen) because it is all about humility and it is all about service and love and staying close to God and his people. That’s what it’s about, it’s not about power and prestige.’”

Standing on the steps of the Pontifical North American College, he recalled being particularly taken aback when he attempted to hang his new soutane in his wardrobe earlier this week. There he found a red cassock belonging to the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, who died this past month.

“And I thought to myself, ‘Dolan, in the future somebody is going to be taking down your stuff because you are going to be gone.’ And that is what it is all about. It is all about eternity. It is not about all these passing things.”

The 62-year-old Archbishop of New York has made headlines in the Italian newspapers for his Feb.17 address to his fellow cardinals-in-waiting, as part of their day of reflection and prayer at the Vatican. While he was referred to as “Papabile” in one paper, and in another he was labeled a “rock star.” 

“Well when you use ‘rock’ in the Vatican you have something else in mind. St. Peter, right? That’s what his name means, ‘rock.’ So if I can be a rock like him, not bad,” he replied. 

“And what about becoming the next Pope?” asked one American journalist. “Non parlo inglese” (I don’t speak English), quipped Cardinal Dolan in Italian to roars of laughter from the press.

His talk to his 21 fellow new cardinals was on the challenge of the new evangelization, with an eye to the upcoming Year of Faith. He explained to the media that he believes “the Gospel has always been well received, in that people read and say, ‘boy, that’s nice’.” But “it is putting it into practice that challenges us, and the same is true of the new evangelization. Now doing that is where the rubber meets the road.”

As a cardinal, the New York archbishop will now take titular possession of a parish in the Diocese of Rome. In his case it is Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the Monte Mario area of the city.

Despite the grandeur and solemnity of the consistory ceremony, it was observed by many that Cardinal Dolan was still his usual cheerful self throughout. Indeed, he was the only cardinal who bounded up the steps of the high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica to receive his red biretta and cardinal’s ring from the Pope.   

“You just got to be yourself,” he told journalists, “why put on airs or try to be somebody different? The Italians say you make the gnocchi with the dough you got – and Lord knows I got a lot of dough,” he laughed pointing to his stomach, “so, you’ve just got to keep at it.”

“It’s a great day for all of New York,” said Cardinal Dolan summing up events in Rome, while holding aloft his new red biretta. 

“This is the hat I want to put on the top of the Empire State Building, the home plate at Yankee Stadium and the Statue of Liberty. So this is for the whole of New York. It’s not for me.”

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