In a new e-book, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan offers his personal insight into a momentous time in the Church's recent history, from the resignation of Benedict XVI to the election of Pope Francis.
The head of the New York archdiocese wrote “Praying in Rome” in response to the many requests he's received to share his experience of the transition from one Pope to another.
“Praying in Rome” will be released in electronic formats on July 9.
On Feb. 11, the day that Benedict XVI announced his resignation, Cardinal Dolan was just finishing his morning prayers by reading “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Every time I’d read a paragraph, I’d say to myself, 'This guy (Benedict XVI) just keeps getting better.'”
Just then, Cardinal Dolan’s communication director, Joseph Zwiller, called to inform him of “rumors” that the Holy Father had announced his resignation.
“We both had a chuckle,” Cardinal Dolan wrote, “agreed that the news was highly improbable, and I told him, ‘Go get a Bloody Mary and go back to bed.’ I returned to my prayers.”
Minutes later, Zwiller called the cardinal to confirm that the rumors were in fact true. “It’s been confirmed. The Holy Father has resigned,” he said.
To which the cardinal’s response was, “OK, Dolan, better get going. This is going to be a big day.”
Weeks later, Cardinal Dolan was present at the conclave to elect a successor to the man who had appointed him archbishop of New York and who made him a cardinal just one year earlier.
“While I trusted 100 percent the wisdom of his discernment, just on a personal level I wondered how (Benedict XVI) had come to his decision,” Cardinal Dolan wrote. “I could only speculate, but I would say there must have been a lot of peace after his resolution.”
While in Rome, Cardinal Dolan said many people – including himself – were unsure as to what would happen next.
“The first step for me was prayer,” he wrote. “I felt some calm in knowing that it’s actually the Holy Spirit who chooses the next pope.”
As the ballots were counted on the afternoon of March 13, Cardinal Dolan said, “it became clear that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was accumulating more and more votes.”
“Naturally, we all snuck a look at him to gauge his reaction,” he wrote. “I tried not to be too obvious, but I don’t think I was successful.”
Pope Francis “quickly proved to be a man comfortable in his new role,” the cardinal said. Even as an ornate chair was placed on a platform for him to receive the cardinals, he remained standing on the same level saying, “Oh, I’ll stay down here.”
Minutes later, Cardinal Dolan revealed, Pope Francis “suddenly bolted,” leaving the cardinals thinking that he must have been headed to the balcony to greet the Church.
However, Pope Francis was actually headed to greet two of the infirm cardinals rather than have them walk to greet him.
“What an act of spontaneous natural courtesy, sadly rare today,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.
Just a few months into Pope Francis’ pontificate, Cardinal Dolan believes that the Holy Father is “calling for change” – not of Church teaching but of the Church's heart.
“And that change starts with you and me,” he wrote. “The change needs to come within us, in our behavior, our attitudes, our temperament, our approach to life.”
“That’s where the change, the conversion of heart, needs to happen – not in what the Church teaches but in how we live it.”
“Praying in Rome” will be available through Image Books for $1.99.