San Francisco mayor, faithful, bid Archbishop Levada farewell

Nearly 2,300 well-wishers turned out Saturday night to bid farewell to San Francisco Archbishop William Levada as he heads to Rome to become head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post formerly held by Pope Benedict XVI.

Mayor Gavin Newsom presented the Archbishop with a trolley bell to remember the city by and encouraged him to think of the “city by the bay” whenever he hears the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Other tributes included videotaped messages from President George W. Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger during the $150 a plate charity farewell dinner, which raised funds for the Alliance of Mission District Catholic Schools.

The 69 year old prelate will replace then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, and become the highest-ranking American ever to hold a position in the Vatican.

In his new position, Archbishop Levada will be responsible for the safeguarding of Catholic doctrine and teaching, as handed down by the apostles nearly 2,000 years ago.

The Archbishop recently decided to waive the diplomatic immunity he now enjoys as a Vatican prefect, and testify in the sexual abuse lawsuits pending in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, where he formerly served as ordinary.

He told reporters before Saturday’s dinner however, that he thought most Catholics were pleased with the way the Archdiocese of San Francisco handled their own abuse charges.

"On the whole,” the Associated Press quoted Archbishop Levada as saying, “I can leave San Francisco with a good conscience."

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