- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, a defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy who led an elite seminary for U.S. priests and became known for his energy, wit and warmth, was named archbishop of New York on Monday.

The Vatican said Dolan would succeed Cardinal Edward Egan, 76, who is retiring as archbishop after nearly nine years. The post is the most prominent in the American Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II once called the job “archbishop of the capital of the world.”

In statements issued by the archdioceses, Dolan said he was “deeply honored” and “grateful for the confidence of Pope Benedict XVI,” but is sad about leaving Milwaukee.

To New York’s faithful, he said in a statement: “I pledge to you my love, my life, my heart.”

The New York Archdiocese is the second-largest in the U.S., behind Los Angeles, serving 2.5 million parishioners in nearly 400 churches. It covers a region from Manhattan to the Catskill mountains, and includes a network of 10 colleges and universities, hundreds of schools and social service agencies, and nine hospitals that treat about 1 million people annually.

Dolan’s selection continues a chain of Irish-American bishops that was broken only once in the history of the archdiocese, when French-born prelate John Dubois was appointed in 1826.

Yet, Dolan, 59, takes over at a time of growing diversity in the local church, with a sizable and expanding Latino population in the New York-area. He speaks Spanish, among other languages, and can preach and celebrate the sacraments in Spanish.

The Rev. David O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America, where Dolan had earned his doctorate in church history, said Dolan’s “personal warmth” and “great sense of humor” helped make him “perfectly suited” for New York.

Michael Sean Winters, author of “Left at The Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics,” first met Dolan when the clergyman was rector of the North American College in Rome, considered the West Point for U.S. priests. Dolan had studied there for his own ordination years earlier.

“The first time I saw him, he had his arm around someone and the other arm had a cigar and a drink,” Winters said. “He’s not judgmental. He’s not a finger-wagger.”

In a brief statement, Dolan said he was grateful for the appointment.

When Egan became New York’s archbishop, the archdiocese had an annual $20 million operating deficit. Egan closed or merged about two dozen parishes as the Catholic population shifted to the suburbs, where new schools were being planned. He said he wiped out the budget shortfall.

On Sept. 11, 2001, and in the days after the terrorist attacks, he led worship in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for thousands of shaken New Yorkers. Last year, the cardinal hosted Pope Benedict XVI in his first U.S. visit as pontiff, an event marked by festive crowds in the tens of thousands.

But unlike many previous New York archbishops, Egan did not embrace the chance for a broad public role in the city. Some priests circulated an anonymous letter in 2006, accusing him of arrogance and of ignoring the pastoral needs of priests and parishioners. Egan called the complaints a “vicious attack.”

Dolan was sent to Milwaukee in 2002 under challenging circumstances. His predecessor, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, had abruptly retired after news broke that the archdiocese had paid a $450,000 settlement to a man claiming Weakland tried to sexually assault him. Weakland admitted an “inappropriate relationship” but denied abuse.

The Rev. Jim Connell, moderator of the Milwaukee Presbyteral Council, a panel of archdiocesan priests, called Weakland’s departure a “very sad and tragic situation” for local clergy. But he said Dolan reached out to them, distributing his e-mail and phone number, and calling them on their birthdays, the anniversary of their ordinations, or just to say hello.

Dolan began his path to the priesthood as a boy. A St. Louis native and the oldest of five children, Dolan has said he would set up cardboard boxes with sheets to make a play altar in the basement. He attended a seminary prep school in Missouri and studied for his ordination at the North American College. By 1985, he had earned his doctorate.

After working as a parish priest and professor, Dolan spent seven years leading the Rome seminary, then returned to the U.S., working briefly as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Louis before he was appointed to Milwaukee.

On the Net:

Archdiocese of New York: http://www.ny-archdiocese.org

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