New York a Good Fit for Catholics' New Shepherd

New York has a new archbishop -- and he has reached out with warmth to all New Yorkers.

"I pledge my life, my heart, my soul," he declared. "And I can tell you already, very sincerely, that I love you very much."

One parishioner, Marian Roach, told the Associated Press: "There's a fresh face, someone who will have to face the challenges we have today. It will be difficult for him. So we must have faith."

Like a predecessor, Cardinal John O'Connor, Archbishop Dolan seems to be a man who will enjoy his position very much. And, like O'Connor, he brings to it Irish charm and humor. Thus, at a news conference, when reminded that, going back to the 1820s, there has been an unbroken chain of Irish-American archbishops here, he said archly: "It's a sign of the Holy Father's infallibility." Later, he made it clear he was only kidding.

When asked what he liked about New York so far, he smiled and said: "I'm happy to see one of those hot dog carts right outside my door on Madison Avenue."

In the news conference, Bishop Dolan left no doubt that he is a conservative. He is against abortion, comparing the issue to ending slavery. He told a questioner that Catholics "have to speak up for the most defenseless in our society, especially when it comes to defending the culture of life."

Yet, despite these words, he has not denied Holy Communion to Catholic lawmakers who support abortion rights, nor has be singled them out publicly.

Dolan was born in St. Louis, the oldest of five children. He has served the church in various posts, including his current position as Archbishop of Milwaukee and, previously, as rector of the North American College in Rome. At social gatherings, he has an affable grin on his face and often puts his arm around people he knows. One person noted Monday that he has "a big, winning smile and sweeping arm gestures embracing those around him in his own energetic aura."

The man he's replacing, Edward Cardinal Egan, is retiring at 76. This scholarly, academic man took a series of budget-cutting steps during the last nine years, closing or merging about two dozen parishes as many Catholics moved to the suburbs. Dolan is just 59, a priest who loves to meet people and hear about their lives. One of his first acts was to reach out with Cardinal Egan to Jewish and Greek Orthodox clergymen. They had a 45-minute meeting.

The new archbshop said he's thrilled by New York's diversity. The late Pope John Paul II described the position here as  being "archbishop of the capital of the world."

If the zeal to reach out to people of all religions and a sense of humor are helpful, Timothy Dolan and New York should be a good fit.

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