Pope welcomes 22 new cardinals to Vatican

Cardinal Timothy Dolan leads a morning prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Pope Benedict XVI elevated 22 Catholic churchmen to cardinals Feb. 18, expanding the pool of men who will eventually elect his successor from among their ranks.

Timothy Dolan, former Archbishop of Milwaukee and until recently Archbishop of New York, is one of those elevated to cardinal. But if suggestions from the ceremony are to be believed, Dolan may have more in his future.

As Benedict, who turned 85 in April, begins to show signs of his age, the prospect of finding a new pope is beginning to loom, and some think Dolan could become a papal candidate, and perhaps the first American pope.

Dolan stood out at the ceremony, embracing Benedict longer than the other newly inducted cardinals and sharing private words with the pope.

Steve Blaha, sacramental preparation ecumenical and interfaith director of Campus Ministry, knows Dolan personally and described him as an “extrovert.”

When Blaha was a pastoral associate at a church in Wauwatosa, Dolan would come to Mass and communion. Blaha and the church’s priest would accompany Dolan around the church and adjacent school while talking.

“He is a guy you can sit and have a beer with and have a really good conversation with.” Blaha said.

Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, worked with Dolan when he was archbishop of Milwaukee for seven years and described him in a similar way.

“He has a gregarious, friendly, hopeful, happy, outgoing personality,” Topczewski said. “Cardinal Dolan has a natural way of bringing the church and all the beauty of its teachings and scriptures to life for everyday people in their everyday lives.”

As part of the ceremonies, Dolan delivered a speech regarding spreading the Catholic faith around the world.

“This is the hat I’m going to put on the top of the Empire State Building, home plate of Yankee Stadium and the Statue of Liberty, because it’s for all of New York, not just for me,” Dolan said.

During the ceremony, called the ordinary public consistory, the red “biretta” hats were given to churchmen from 15 countries.

Only one other American was welcomed into the elite club of cardinals: former Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien. With the two additions, there is a total of 12 American cardinals, second only to Italy’s 30, which added eight at the ceremony. Currently, there are 125 cardinals under the age of 80, the cutoff to be eligible to vote for the future pope.

Topczewski believes Dolan is seeking neither the papacy nor power.

“There has never been an American pope, and Dolan would laugh at the idea,” Topczewski said. “He would say his mother would think it is great, but he believes the Holy Spirit guides the church and if that’s what is wanted then so be it. But for now he is not reading into anything.”

Blaha said he does not see being a cardinal as a resume builder or promotion but rather as a calling to look at bigger and deeper things in the church.

“Cardinal Dolan invites genuine engagement with anyone of good will looking to solve issues and needs of the world,” Blaha said. “He approaches it from the heart of the church and in his own Catholic way and that is the gift he brings.”

According to Blaha, Dolan found time in his busy schedule as archbishop of Milwaukee to personally call each priest in the diocese on their birthday to wish them a wonderful day.

“This was warmly embraced by the priests,” Blaha said. “He makes time for people to be present at important times.”

During the consistory, the pope spoke directly to the cardinals about their role in the Church before he gave each of the new cardinals their rings and red birettas.

“Cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters,” he said.

Topczewski said Dolan’s elevation to cardinal is a great moment for the church on a state and national level.

“For now we are just happy to have him in the role he is in,” Topczewski said. “He is certainly one of the most prominent American cardinals because he has such an engaging personality that people are drawn to.”

Dolan is scheduled to come to Milwaukee on April 28 and will celebrate a Mass at the Basilica of Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wis., just northwest of Milwaukee.