Cardinal Dolan Calls Pope’s Resignation a Sign of Humility
Feb 16, 2013
On a day when Roman Catholics around the world had ashes pressed to their foreheads as a mark of humility and penance, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was a living example of the day’s message.
By stepping down, Cardinal Dolan said, the pontiff was saying, “my death is here; I feel weak, I feel fragile, I am frail.”
“That’s what this day is all about,” Cardinal Dolan told an estimated 2,000 worshipers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue for a noon Mass on Ash Wednesday. “We are conscious of our mortality. We are conscious that we have come from God, and are destined to return to him for all eternity.”
Cardinal Dolan presided over the Mass in his purple and gold Lenten vestments, blessing the ashes and then distributing them to worshipers with the refrain: “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
After the service, speaking to reporters behind the ornate main altar, the cardinal said the pope’s resignation had given the day special import.
“We call him Il Papa, our spiritual dad, and we’re sad that he’s going, and we know we are going to miss him very much,” he said. “It’s an act of extraordinary humility. Here you have a man who’s aware of the gifts that God has given him, the high office to which the Lord has called him, but is also aware of his own limitations, as we all have to be.”
Cardinal Dolan did not mention speculation about his own prospects of becoming pope, and virtually no one asked him about it — even though there were at least 17 television cameras and 15 reporters at the Mass. One reporter did ask, but the cardinal either did not hear him or pretended not to.
But many worshipers had clearly thought about the possible implications for the cardinal, even though scholars say his odds of becoming pope are long.
“I would love it,” Daniella Galarza, 35, of Toms River, N.J., said of the cardinal as pope. “He’s so down to earth, and I think that he would draw a lot of young people to the Catholic faith.”
Carey Kirkpatrick, 32, of Long Island City, Queens, agreed, saying: “I’d like to see Dolan, because I like the energy that he brings. He’s got a great sense of humor and reaches a lot of people, and I think that would be a welcome addition to the Vatican.”
But Ash Wednesday is a day when some Catholics who are not often in church turn up there, and some were less well informed about church politics.
“When you say Dolan, I think of the Knicks owner, and I don’t want him to be pope, I’ll tell you that much,” said Tom Wecera, 35, of the Upper East Side, who had just left St. Patrick’s, referring to James L. Dolan, the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company.
When Mr. Wecera’s friend explained that it was actually the archbishop of New York who was being mentioned as a possible candidate for the papacy, he brightened up. “It would be cool to represent New York,” he said, smiling. “He could take over the Knicks and the Rangers, too.”