(Updates with comment from Boston College professor in fifth paragraph.)
Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who has led the 2.5 million-member Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York since 2009, was named one of 22 cardinals-designate by Pope Benedict XVI.
Dolan, 61, will become a prince of the church in Rome Feb. 18, he wrote today in a blog post hours after the pope made the announcement during Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
“As a kid, I just wanted to be a parish priest,” the cardinal-designate said today at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. “And to think that now the pope has named me a cardinal -- that’s awesome.”
The pope chooses cardinals as his principal assistants and advisers in the administration of church affairs. As a member of the College of Cardinals under age 80, Dolan will be eligible to vote in selecting a new pope upon the death or resignation of the current pontiff. Cardinal Edward Egan, whom Dolan succeeded in the New York archbishop post in February 2009, will turn 80 in April and lose his voting eligibility.
“At 61 he will have moved into a position of leadership in the church for almost 20 years,” said Thomas Groome, a religion professor at Boston College and author of “Will There Be Faith?,” published in 2011 by HarperCollins. “He will be listened to not just because he’s a cardinal but because he’s from New York, with the largest population of U.S. Catholics.”
‘Great’ for NYC
As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dolan already has a network of political connections, Groome said. The new appointments will raise to 214 the number of cardinals, including 125 under age 80, he said.
Dolan oversees an archdiocese that spans about 180 miles (290 kilometers), from the southern end of New York City’s Staten Island borough north to rural Ulster County. The late Pope John Paul II once called the position “the archbishop of the capital of the world.”
“He’s a good guy, and I think it’s great for New York City and great for the church,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today on his weekly radio show on WOR. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a statement, described Dolan as “a faithful and dedicated leader, who has always put service to others as his first priority.”
Dolan, born in St. Louis of Irish heritage, is New York’s 10th archbishop, a post held throughout history almost entirely by Irish-Americans. He studied theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained in 1976. He returned to his alma mater as rector in 1994. He was named auxiliary bishop to St. Louis in 2001 and became archbishop of Milwaukee in 2002, according to the archdiocese.
In Milwaukee, Dolan won praise for tackling openly and early allegations that high-ranking Catholic officials turned a blind eye to priests who sexually abused children.
Eight of 10 archbishops in the New York archdiocese have been cardinals.
“When he became archbishop of New York, everybody knew he was going to be a cardinal someday -- it’s a given that whoever is archbishop of New York is going to eventually be made a cardinal,” said Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Washington’s Georgetown University.
As New York’s Catholic leader, Dolan has pressed Congress to extend unemployment benefits and to provide paths toward legal status for illegal immigrants.
He has opposed New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage last year. He has also fought against abortion rights and requirements that religious institutions include contraceptives in health-insurance coverage as well as mandates that they offer adoption services to gay couples.
--With assistance from Peter S. Green in New York. Editors: Mark Schoifet, Stephen Merelman
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