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Timothy Michael Dolan becomes a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 18, 2012: This morning at 4:26 St. Louis time, the pope placed a red hat on Timothy Michael Dolan making him a cardinal of the Catholic Church. The conferral service, called a consistory, took place under the great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. For Dolan, it was 11:26 a.m. when he was made a cardinal.

Dolan who had long and loudly proclaimed that the only Cardinal he ever wanted to be was Stan Musial smiled widely at Benedict XVI and bowed his head so the pope could place the biretta on the Maplewood native’s head. In response, a huge smile broke over the German pontiff’s face.

Friday Dolan was chosen to give the keynote welcoming address at the all-day session of prayer and consultation for cardinals and cardinals-elect. The pope compliment Dolan for his "enthusiastic, joyful and profound" talk. according to a Vatican summary of the closed-door meeting.

Seeing the joy

“He had his usual warm expression, later when he went to greet all the other cardinals kissing them on both checks, it was a pretty emotional moment for him,” said Timothy Dolan Noonan now of Atlanta, a Kirkwood native and the new cardinal’s first cousin. He spoke by phone from an afternoon reception.

As Dolan bowed his head before the pope, an assisting priest quickly slipped a scarlet zucchetto, a skull cap - on the crown of Dolan’s head. These caps, similar to Jewish yarmulkes, are artfully sewn of eight, curved triangles of red silk to conform to the head.

Once it was in place, Benedict XVI placed on Dolan’s head a “red hat,” a biretta with three curved arches on top representing the Trinity.

In Italian the pope said: “Receive the scarlet biretta as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of Holy Roman Church.”

Benedict slipped a wide, gold ring with the raised images of St. Peter and St. Paul and a star symbolizing Mary on the Dolan’s left ring finger, He told him to “know that your love for the church is strengthened by the love of (Peter) the Prince of the Apostles.”

Dolan and all the new cardinals wore what will become their new ceremonial uniforms for most everywhere but Mass: A red ankle-long robe, called a cassock, which traditionally has 33 buttons on the front – one button for each year of Jesus’ life. A red cape that stops just above the elbows tops that. Over the cassock but under the cape, cardinals wear a knee-length, white rochet.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former St. Louis archbishop who became a cardinal in the fall of 2010 after he went to lead the Vatican tribunal, was seated with about 120 other veteran cardinals a few rows back. Burke chose a rochet with a deep, lace border. Dolan wore a simple white cotton rochet with minimal border adornment of pulled thread work called tatting. Dolan adjusted his wide red fascia, a sash, over his rochet.

Many commented that he looked a bit trimmer. He’s been dieting since New Year’s. “He’s in fighting form,” said the Rev. Brian Emmett McWeeney, the New York Archdiocese’s director of adult formation in a phone interview from Rome.

The happy day for his dad’s Dolan family and his mom’s Radcliffe family began with a special breakfast for three generations including his mother, Shirley Radcliffe Dolan; two of his three sisters Debby Williams and Lisa Williams, both of Washington, Mo; his brothers, Pat Dolan, an executive at St. Agnes Home in Kirkwood and Bob Dolan of Milwaukee. Their aunt Fran Noonan was represented by three of her children and grandchildren. The Kirkwood widow was unable to travel to Rome but will be joining many Dolan and Radcliffe family next Saturday in New York for Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Patrick’s. Also at the family breakfast was his Irish first grade teacher at Holy Infant in Ballwin. St. Louisans remember her Celtic-lilting Scripture reading at the St. Louis Cathedral at Dolan’s 2001 episcopal ordination Mass.

About 1,000 “Friends of Tim” came to Rome to celebrate with the new cardinal.

Many visitors arrived at St. Peter’s square before 5 a.m. with unreserved tickets in hand. It took some an hour to move a few blocks from the Tiber River bridges to the church steps. About an hour before the event, hundreds found the church filled and sat on folding chairs in St. Peter’s Square to watch the ceremony on Jumbo-trons. Even the world’s largest church has limits.

Deacon Donald Anstoetter of St. Louis, in his final year of residency at the Pontifical North America College, couldn’t get in despite his general admission ticket. He met several disappointed Kansas City priests there to cheer on Dolan and walked them to the college where they watched on television.

Dolan and the other 21 men to get their red hats sat in the front row of the church about five yards from a staircase that descends into the crypt where many believe St. Peter is buried. When Dolan walked down the aisle there was a buzz among the large American contingent, Noonan said.

Exactly at 10:30 a.m., trumpets rang out and a server bearing high a golden crucifix led the papal procession down the main aisle. The pope, who will turn 85 in April, stood on a wheeled platform slightly above the crowd. Two men rolled the low-tech platform down church’s 730-foot main aisle. The 90-minute conferral ceremony, called a consistory, includes prayers,  a Gospel reading and the pope’s sermon. It was not a Mass. A boy’s choir, a men’s choir and mixed scola sang many hymns.

The pope, facing the assembly on his red upholstered chair on a red carpeted platform, explained that he was calling the new cardinals “so that they may be united to the Chair of Peter by a closer bond our apostolic ministry.”


In June of 2002 that last line worried some US Cardinals when they first talked about reporting sexual abuse by their priests to the public on the floor of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas. Cardinal William Keeler, the then archbishop of Baltimore, made the point that keeping criminal activity secret harmed the church and its children and he promptly listed names of all creditably accused Baltimore priests on his archdiocesan website. Dolan published similar lists during the seven years he was Milwaukee’s archbishop. This week St. Louisan David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on Dolan to repeat the gesture now that he’s in New York.

After saying the Apostles Creed aloud, the 22 honorees made a lifetime promise to: “remain faithful to Christ and his Gospel, constantly obedient to the Holy Apostolic Roman Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff, become members of the Roman clergy and cooperate more directly in Benedict XVI and his canonically elected successors, always to remain in communion with the Catholic Church in my words and actions, not to make known to anyone matters entrusted to me in confidence, the disclosure of which could bring damage or dishonor to Holy Church.”

Then, one at a time each of the 22 men walked up the dozen steps to the raised platform, greeted the pope, and knelt and bowed so he could place the hat on their heads.  As each man left the platform, he was handed a scroll with his papal proclamation of his new assignment.

As of today, 125 cardinals can vote for the next pope. By the end of the year, 13 of them including Dolan’s New York predecessor Cardinal Edward M. Egan will turn 80 the date they lose their vote. This is the largest number available to vote for pope since five years before John Paul II died.

When all had their hats, each new cardinal circulated among the great swath of men in red in the eight rows of established cardinals. Dolan greeted all including Burke and Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, former Philadelphia and St. Louis archbishop, who in retirement divides time between Knoxville, Tenn., and his Rome apartment.

“It was really fun to See Father Tim in his element as he worked the crowd,” said Mark Koenig, of Geneva, Switzerland, a Dolan first cousin once removed who sat about three-quarters back in the church with his wife Yuri Hatsuse.

Finally the pope posed a bit of church business for his cardinal advisers. He reminded them that he’d sent material on several deceased persons he wanted to canonize as saints. Dolan joined the others in a voice vote approving the canonizations, which includes two American women. Marianne Cope, a mid-19th and early 20th century Franciscan nun, worked among the lepers Molokai in the Hawaiian Island; and the 17th-century Mohawk Kateri Tekakwitha was a brave convert to Catholicism. Both women will be canonized Oct. 21 in Rome. The service’s final hymn “Salve Regina” to Mary, the mother of Jesus, was sung just at noon, the Angelus hour.


Many Americans went immediately up the nearby Janiculum Hill to the North American College. Dolan and the only other new American Cardinal Edwin O’Brien are former rectors at the college. O’Brien now holds a Vatican post but continues to administrate the Baltimore archdiocese until the pope sends an archbishop replace him.

Deacon Donald Anstoetter, of St. Louis welcomed reception guests as at least a dozen buses pulled into the school courtyard delivering pilgrims. The doorman was a fun gig. He saw many St. Louisans including a group from Holy Infant in Ballwin and greeted ten or so St. Louis priests.  Most were hungry having left their hotel rooms as early as 5 AM to successfully get into the church. Fruit juices, wine, water, soda and an assortment of sweet pastries, quiches, thin-crust pizza slices, were served.

Maintaining ties

The three St. Louis seminarians at the Rome college met Dolan when he last visited in the fall. Then he wore another red hat, a Cardinals hat during World Series fever. When most U.S. bishops visit Rome, they take to dinner their diocese’s NAC seminarians. Dolan makes a party of it. He rounds up not just the New York seminarians but all St. Louis seminarians, and Milwaukee seminarians. Dolan served as Milwaukee archbishop for seven years until three years ago when Benedict sent him to New York. A Dolan dinner is always fun, Samson said.

Guests mingled among the inner courtyard where 50 orange trees – one for each U.S. state survived the  snow storms of the past two weeks, said Charles Samson, 25, of Des Peres, a third-year grad student in theology at the NAC.

It was sunny in the mid-50s and many guests keep their coats and scarves on. Some ice remained in the courtyard fountain. Long lines formed to greet the two new American cardinals who stood outside the college chapel, on the second floor open corridor overlooking the courtyard.

Around 4 p.m. the two new cardinals went to their official Vatican receptions at the Pope Paul VI audience Hall, a mid-20th century landmark designed by Pier Luigi Nervi, just south of St. Peters.

Tomorrow the cardinals will join the pope and be blessed in their first Mass as cardinals. Because of Dolan, the three St. Louis seminaries have been invited to have small roles in that Mass. Samson, 25, a St. Louis U. High graduate, and Chris Seiler, 24, of Bridgeton, a DeSmet High graduate, will walk side by side and hoist the thuribles, the golden censers with burning incense. They’ve practiced twice this week with Vatican officials to make the smoke rise heavenward as they walk in a papal procession. Anstoetter will serve as an Eucharistic communion minister.

“Cardinal Dolan's a fine role model for me,” Anstoetter said. “A man who listens, remembers people’s names, cracks a joke about where they come from, or something, to put them at ease. They come away from him feeling special. Because the cardinal can form that special communication with them, they feel special, wonderful. Cardinal Dolan can lead them to Christ. I just hope to some small extent that I can be like him.”

Archbishop Robert Carlson will ordain Anstoetter a priest May 26 at the St. Louis Cathedral.

Surprising speculation

For decades keen Vatican observers have staunchly proclaimed that no American will ever be voted pope because the nation is too powerful. Was Vatican reporter Franca Giansoldati just having fun, trying on the British tabloid style, or, was  she serious when she wrote in the Saturday’s “Il Messaggero” newspaper that among new cardinals, Dolan is being talking about as a papabile. That’s the name for a Cardinal who might be a papal candidate at a conclave.

While this goes against everything Vatican insiders have said about the chances of any American pope, that Italians are saying this, no matter how unrealistic, is a measure of Dolan’s solid intellectual weight, and his dynamic presence.

Patricia Rice is a freelance writer based in St. Louis who has covered religion for many years. She also writes about cultural issues, including opera.