- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, N.J., yesterday succeeded Cardinal James A. Hickey as the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

Traveling here by train, the multilingual and widely traveled New Yorker a self-described "workaholic" announced with Cardinal Hickey the papal appointment that becomes active Jan. 3.

"His Holiness has chosen well and wisely," said Cardinal Hickey, who retires at age 80 after 20 years leading the archdiocese.

Cardinal Hickey said God had given the nation's capital "a superb new archbishop."

He added, "From my perspective, Archbishop McCarrick is a young man he's only 70. And when you observe his energy, you'll agree with my assessment."

Archbishop McCarrick learned of his appointment two weeks ago while here on business with the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.

It was as a moment of "extraordinary grace," Archbishop McCarrick said. "You gasp a couple of times, and you say deep down, 'Can I really do this.' I really believe you don't say no."

He spoke warmly of a friendship with Cardinal Hickey that goes back to 1967, and the days when he was secretary to Cardinal Terence J. Cooke of New York, whom then-Father Hickey would visit to raise money for North American seminarians in Rome.

"He was often the one designated by Cardinal Cooke to render whatever assistance was needed," Cardinal Hickey recalled.

A frequent visitor to Washington, Archbishop McCarrick will leave an archdiocese of 1.4 million Catholics to serve one of 500,000 but in what is regarded as a seat of the Catholic voice to political powers here and abroad.

It is rumored that in February, Pope John Paul II will name new members to the College of Cardinals, whose 120 members elect the next pope. The new archbishops of Washington and New York are likely candidates.

"I am a people person rather than a think person," said the archbishop, who has a doctorate in sociology and was president of the Catholic University in Puerto Rico. Now, he said, "the really important thing is to get to know my priests, get to know my people. Once I've been in every parish, then we'll take it from there."

His first assignment as a priest took him to impoverished sectors of Puerto Rico, which he said imbued him with a concern to ease suffering. For the U.S. bishops, he has headed advocacy for migration services and debt relief for poor nations preaching that he practiced in his own archdiocese.

"Some of our poorer parishes received debt forgiveness that amounted to $10 million," said Auxiliary Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski, who visited from Newark yesterday.

Seven days a week, the archbishop works from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., Bishop Bootkoski said, adding that at breakfast ideas and projects are all the talk as they are again after 10 p.m. prayers. Still, he said, "The archbishop's got any easygoing style. If he sees you're hurting, he goes out of his way."

Archbishop McCarrick takes over an archdiocese that also includes Georgetown University, Catholic University and Trinity College, plus a political climate in the area that often conflicts with church teaching on morality, abortion and homosexual rights.

"I certainly hope to be orthodox," he said, noting that "authentic church teaching" advocates for the poor and for faith and morals.

He acknowledged the church's problems, which include an increasing shortage of priests and bringing the alienated section of its membership back into the folds of the church. "I hope we will concentrate on vocations [to the priesthood]," he said. He also believes that the way church teaching is presented is key to how modern Catholics can accept its demands.

Born July 7, 1930, in New York City, the archbishop studied at Fordham University and St. Joseph's Seminary. He was dean of students and chief fund-raiser at Catholic University, becoming a bishop in 1977. He has served in Newark since 1986.

Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore lauded the archbishop's "gifts of great faith and diligence," and fellow members on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted his "gentle nature, clear-mindedness, and strict devotion to the cause of religious freedom."

For his part, Archbishop McCarrick wished that for all his joy in hard work that he also "be a more holy person," and noted that bishops are on a team and face an unknown future.

"No bishop of the church can do anything by himself," said the smiling prelate. "There is no crystal ball given to an archbishop."

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