Archbishop Timothy Dolan, spiritual leader to New York City's two million Catholics, is urging "respectful discussion" from all all parties locked in debate over plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero, and he said he prays a responsible decision will be reached regarding the mosque's final location.
Speaking to reporters today, Dolan said he hopes any decision will respect the viewpoint of those who oppose an Islamic Center so close to the site of the fallen Twin Towers but will also protect the exercise of religious freedom.
Dolan said New York has " a great record of welcoming people... of coming together to deal with issues in a constructed, dignified way."
He said he would be happy to be included in any future dialogue.
“My major prayer is that what has turned into somewhat of a divisive issue might develop into an occasion of very civil, rational, loving, respectful discussion," the Archbishop said.
"Mayor Bloomberg articulated in a particularly of eloquent way the principles of religious freedom and the hospitality on which this great country and this wonderful community is based," Dolan said.
Bloomberg is in support of the mosque's construction on Park Place, saying it will be a "sad day" if the project is derailed.
Archbishop Dolan also gave credit to Governor Paterson for offering to broker discussions with the imam and mosque developers in the hopes of finding another location for the project.
“I think the governor’s initiative is welcome," he said. "Both of what they (he and Mayor Bloomberg) are trying to do is bring people together to look into this problem," he said.
The archbishop pointed to what he called a "somewhat analogous situation" under Pope John Paul II, who brokered a solution when Carmelite nuns sought to move into a building and build a cross near Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp.
This was taken by some to be an attempt to spread Christianity at place of deep Jewish suffering.
Pope John Paul asked the nuns to move. "Keep the idea, move the address," Dolan said. "It worked there, might work here."