As Archbishop Timothy Dolan landed at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport Sunday, passengers on the turbulent Al Italia flight told him they’d felt safer with him on the plane.
“Well, I felt safe because I knew all of you were praying!” he quipped. “That sure was a bumpy ride!
The leader of 2.6 million Catholics in the New York Archdiocese has come to the Eternal City for the ceremony in St. Peterâ€™s Basilica Saturday when Pope Benedict XVI will elevate him and 21 others to cardinal status .
Dolan will become one of the 108 cardinals allowed to vote for a new Pope in the event of Benedict XVI’s death.
The decision to elevate Dolan without waiting for the retired head of the Archdiocese, Cardinal Edward Egan, to turn 80 is a â€œsignificantâ€ sign that the pontiff holds Dolan in high esteem, a church source said.
The Pope also showed his regard for Dolan by asking him to give the keynote speech Friday to all the world’s cardinals, who will gather to vote on new saints .
He has to do it all in Italian.
“My Italian is pretty good ordering in a restaurant, but this is a little intimidating,” he admitted â€” though he
conversed in Italian fluently with fans on the plane and in the airport.
The speech will be part of a busy week for the charismatic cleric. More than 1,000 pilgrims from New York, Missouri and Wisconsin, including his family and grade-school teachers, are journeying here to witness this historic step in Dolan’s meteoric rise in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, whose members number one billion worldwide.
“I’m just so glad the day is finally here,” Dolan said, but he does admit to some cold feet.
“The only thing I’m nervous about this week is my ability to be gracious with everybody, to make contact with everybody coming to Rome for this.”
He will shepherd them to some of the holiest sites in Christendom, including St. Peter’s Basilica, built over the site that Catholics believe is the tomb of St. Peter, the apostle who was crucified upside down for his beliefs by the Emperor Nero; and the Basilica of the Holy Cross, believed to house fragments of Jesus’ crucifix. [More]