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Cardinal Dolan on meeting with Pope Francis, U.S. reaction to new Pope

(Vatican Radio) New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan says last week’s shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa in which hundreds of African migrants died, continues to bring tears to the eyes of Pope Francis. The Pope has repeatedly spoken of the tragedy with obvious pain since it happened last Thursday.
Listen to Tracey McClure's brief conversation with Cardinal Dolan: RealAudioMP3

President of the United States Catholic Bishops Conference, Cardinal Dolan and Vice President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz led a small delegation of the USCCB leadership to Rome this week as part of their annual visits to the Vatican to exchange information with the Prefects of different Pontifical Congregations about developments in the U.S. Church and other churches around the world. Cardinal Dolan described their meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican Monday as the “highlight” of their visit.

“The highlight of course, is going to see the Pope. So we got to do that, we got to see Pope Francis which for us was exciting,” Cardinal Dolan said. “I hadn’t seen him since the conclave and …Archbishop Joe Kurtz, the Archbishop of Louisville who’s the Vice President of the USCCB…I don’t think he had met the Holy Father. So this was very exciting and it was really just kind of a friendly conversation. It wasn’t so much that we had business – because traditionally when you go to see the Pope, it’s kind of a meeting of brothers. And that’s what it was for us. With the other ones, like when we see a prefect of a congregation, we’ll have an agenda: these are items, these are business things that we know that you’re interested in, that you’ve asked us to follow up on. With the Holy Father of course, no. …”

In their half hour meeting with the Pope, Cardinal Dolan said “we conveyed to him the love and the admiration and the esteem and gratitude of the Catholic people of the United States, and indeed of the people of the United States and especially the bishops. We had spoken about a beautiful new sense of a freshness and creativity within the Church that's thanks to his providential leadership.”

Cardinal Dolan said Pope Francis displayed a “healthy curiosity” and interest in the issues that the bishops’ conference is working on. “We spoke to him about immigration for instance, and thanked him for his heroic visit to Lampedusa and then of course…that almost led to him crying over the current tragedy. He told us by the way, and I hadn’t heard this: he said, by the way, I’ve sent my ‘elemosiner’ – the papal almoner – in other words, the man who gives out the charity (donations) of the Pope. He’d sent him as his personal delegate to Lampedusa to be with the families and to try to help the survivors and see that this tragedy would never reoccur….He asked us about our Catholic schools, he asked about vocations, he asked about the Latino population. So you could tell he had a very healthy curiosity about the Catholic Church in the United States.”

Pope Francis’ recent lengthy interview published in the Jesuit-run America Magazine received mixed reaction in some quarters of the U.S. Catholic population. Asked to comment on this, and on general reaction to the new pope, Cardinal Dolan described the interview as “exhilarating and inspirational” but admitted that parts of it may have been misinterpreted:

“I could only tell you in general, when I walk the streets of New York, as I try to do a lot, (the Pope has received) universal acclaim. People who are obviously practicing Catholics, Catholics who have fallen away, people who aren’t of any religion at all, or religions that are not Catholic, will say to me, ‘boy do we ever love Pope Francis’ and I told (the Pope) that. No, I think most committed Catholics, they’re nuanced enough to know what the Holy Father meant. And they know that there’s perhaps some misinterpretations. But I don’t think they…you know, when you’ve got a long interview that is so exhilarating and inspirational, and some people take a dozen words out of context – that’s not the right thing to do, is it? So but no, they love him and they loved Pope Benedict too and they loved Pope John Paul II. But there seems to be almost like a fresh romance with Pope Francis.”