Texan on list of new cardinals
Oct 18, 2007
Choice of Houston cleric shows state's importance to Vatican.
(The Dallas Morning News, October 18, 2007) Pope Benedict XVI is elevating the archbishop in Houston to cardinal, a historic first that church officials and scholars say underscores the importance of Texas and the region as growth areas for the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop Daniel DiNardo will be not only be the first Texan but also the first Southern or Southwestern cardinal when the appointment takes effect Nov. 24.
The archbishop, who oversees 1.5 million Catholics in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese, called Wednesday's announcement "humbling and surprising."
Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas praised the move, adding: "The Holy Father has sent a strong message that he recognizes the ever-growing importance of Texas as a Catholic state."
Archbishop DiNardo will be one of 23 new cardinals, bringing membership in the College of Cardinals to 202, according to Catholic News Service.
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Upon the death of a pope, cardinals under the age of 80 elect his successor. Cardinals also closely advise the pope, though Archbishop DiNardo will continue to run the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.
Cardinal appointments in the U.S. have historically been skewed to the East Coast, with exceptions for such cities as Chicago and Los Angeles.
"When I was in Texas, there was an ongoing gripe that the Catholic Church was growing rapidly in the Southwest, but the feeling was it was significantly slighted in terms of representation," said Richard Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Toledo in Ohio and formerly a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.
"This [the DiNardo appointment] is an important way for the Vatican to affirm the growing significance of the Southwest."
Bishop Farrell noted that the archbishops of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore were not elevated to cardinal in this round of papal appointments.
"He kind of passed over Washington and Baltimore and elected to honor the state of Texas," Bishop Farrell said.
Thanks in large measure to Hispanic immigration, Texas' Catholic population has reached nearly 6.5 million, more than double that of two decades ago. Catholics constitute the state's largest religious group.
The Galveston-Houston Archdiocese is Texas' largest and one of the largest in the country. It too has more than doubled in size since the late 1980s, said Annette Gonzales Taylor, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Dallas and former spokeswoman for the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.
She said that though Hispanics account for much of the growth of Texas Catholicism, people moving in from Northern states are an important element. The Houston area, she added, also has large numbers of black and Asian Catholics.
Archbishop DiNardo, 58, was one of two U.S. archbishops tapped Wednesday to be a cardinal. The other is Archbishop John Foley, 71. He's a Philadelphia native who, according to Catholic News Service, is "known to millions of people as the English-language commentator of papal Christian midnight masses."
When they are installed in November, the U.S. will have 17 cardinals, Catholic News Service said.
At a news conference Wednesday, Archbishop DiNardo stressed his surprise at the appointment, calling himself "just a kid from Pittsburgh."
He earned advanced degrees at Catholic universities and was ordained a priest in 1977. He went on to serve in a variety of pastoral and administrative posts.
In 1997, he was named bishop of the Sioux City, Iowa, diocese. There, he said, he "had the great pleasure of shepherding almost 15,000 square miles of cornfields."
Upon arriving in Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, he joked that he told himself, "You know, DiNardo, I don't think you're in Iowa anymore."
He served as archbishop coadjutor (archbishop-in-waiting) for the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese beginning in 2004, and he became archbishop early last year.
"I would say he's a conservative but not an ideologue," Dr. Gaillardetz said. "He has a reputation for working well with the clergy and lay people in the diocese.
"He is, like many of the bishops being appointed right now, hyper-sensitive to issues of loyalty to the papacy. He's not going to have much patience for any overt criticism of Vatican policies."
Dr. Gaillardetz also predicted that Archbishop DiNardo would, as cardinal, be a strong voice in favor of immigrants' rights and against the death penalty – two key issues in Texas.
Bishop Farrell said that having a cardinal in Texas will give the state and region "a special place" in high-level discussions about church policy and allocations of resources.
A hint of the Vatican's awareness of Texas came in 2004, when Pope John Paul II designated Galveston-Houston as an archdiocese, because of its size and importance, Ms. Taylor said.
Texas became the second state in the country – California is the other – to have two archdioceses. San Antonio has carried the designation since 1926.