Press Conference with Cardinals John Foley and Daniel DiNardo
November 24, 2007
Newly created American Cardinals John Foley, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston met with reporters this afternoon at the North American College, the American seminary in Rome. The following is a transcript of their remarks.
Opening Remarks by Cardinal John Foley: I’ve been told I’m supposed to go first. I think I can speak for Cardinal DiNardo in saying that we’re very grateful to our Holy Father for this great honor, not to us personally but to the church in the United States. We’ve been very well-received by our fellow members of the College of Cardinals, and many of the American members of the College are here today. As one who has worked with the media for so many years, I’m grateful and happy to see so many of you here. It’s a pleasure to see you. Thank you for all the kind things you’ve said about both of us in these days. I said to John Allen yesterday that it’s nice to be canonized without the inconvenience of dying! We’re very grateful for all of your kindness and thoughtfulness and support. We ask you for your prayers. I know that both of us will be available to you as much as we can in these days. Forgive me for asking to be seated at this time, but some bug struck me a couple days ago and I haven’t been in the best possible shape. I’m just trying to survive through the ceremonies. Thank you for your understanding and your patience. I now give you to the man who was my boss here in Rome a number of years ago as director of Villa Stritch, where I live, the residence for American priests who work at the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo was so kind to me when I celebrated my 25th anniversary as a priest. He had a special dinner for me, and invited other people. He was always very gracious, very thoughtful, so God has rewarded him for his goodness!
Opening Remarks by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo: I think Cardinal Foley has spoken for us both in saying how grateful we all are, first to the Holy Father, and to God’s people. We’re both humbled too by receiving this title, this honor. I would want to add along with Cardinal Foley my gratitude to those of you here with the press. I especially want to thank the press from Houston, if you don’t mind a plug, because they’ve come here from the city of Houston. It is a distinctive honor for not just Texas, but the whole south of the United States, but certainly for Houston. I’m very proud that a cardinal from the south has been named. It’s an honor, a responsibility, and pretty humbling for this kid from Pittsburgh. I’ve been so warmly accepted by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and now to be selected to be a cardinal of the church. I’m delighted. It was a wonderful celebration today, beautiful words of the gospel, beautiful interpretation by the Holy Father today. Thank you.
Cardinal DiNardo, what did you think when the Holy Father put the biretta on your head?
I wanted to be very composed in terms of the sacred moment, but I have to admit at the very moment he put it on, my zucchetto was falling off. I had to push it back up. Once I stood up, he had a great smile when he said Pax Domini, “the peace of the Lord be with you.” That smile, that encouragement, were a great moment for me today.
Cardinal Foley, when you were the editor of the Catholic Standard and Times up there on the ninth floor of 222 17th Street, did you ever think you’d be wearing the red hat of a cardinal?
No, but I thank the members of the Catholic Press Association for having given me the clothes I’m wearing today! Is that your way of slipping that in? Bob Zyskowski is the President of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, and he worked for me in Philadelphia lo these many years ago, so he’s made good. Thank you. Do I look alright, by the way?
Both of you have given your lives to the church. Cardinal DiNardo first and then Cardinal Foley, would you say this is the happiest day of your lives?
DiNardo: It’s a very, very happy day of my life, but I’m going to be as frank with you as I can. The happiest day of my life was the day as a bishop I ordained my first priest. No day will probably ever equal that. I say that [because] it just simply affected me more than anything. But to receive this great title from the Holy Father … it’s really quite special. To have my family present, as well as the family of the church from Houston and Pittsburgh and Sioux City, made it an extremely fine, fine moment. So it’s on the edge of the happiest day of my life.
Foley: I also was on the edge of the happiest, but the happiest day was my ordination as a priest. That’s it. I keep saying that I’ve never had an unhappy day as a priest, and I mean that. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful blessing … including today!
Cardinal DiNardo, it was interesting to hear you say that your happiest day was when you ordained your first priest, because the Holy Father has charged you with finding men who will become priests.
Sure, shepherds for the church are an important dimension of all of our growth in holiness. Where you have good shepherds, that generally means good faithful, and that means good families … all that works together. But I speak particularly of the great growth of the Catholic church in the south, and in the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. It’s spectacular, but we do need some more priests. I’m shameless, I’ll ask anyone … ‘How old are you’? Promoting the priesthood is important.
Cardinal DiNardo, what’s the first thing you’ll do when you get back?
Right after I get back it’s normal office things, the first day. Then I begin a series of Masses in various parts of the archdiocese so I can meet people and they can come and greet me, and they won’t have to travel so far. If you know what Houston roads are like, you’ll salute me that I would do this, going to the various parts of the archdiocese to have Mass. We’ll be doing that. Then the normal routine will settle back in.
Cardinal DiNardo, as somebody who came into Texas from the outside, can you talk a little bit about what you’ve learned about Catholicism in Texas and the southwest, and what this day means for Catholics there?
Houston had half the number of Catholics twenty years ago that it has right now. There has been an incredible growth of various nations and peoples, plus people from other parts of the United States who have come in to the southwest, to the south, and specifically to the area around Galveston-Houston-Austin. They bring with them experiences of the Catholic faith, of their respective nations, which has been an enrichment to us. That’s particularly [the case] when you think of those from various parts of South America, and from the Pacific … Vietnamese, Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans. I see that as a great enrichment. What it has allowed us to do, but it’s also a challenge, is to see that the unity of faith can be maintained with a wide variety of cultures around. However, it requires purposive work to do that. The challenge I see in Houston is to celebrate the richness we have, with this great diversity and expressions of Catholicism. That’s also why I’m delighted that there’s a red hat. The unity of faith with the Holy Father is also extremely crucial if we’re going to keep all this working together.
I say this with great pride, that Houston to my mind in the Catholic church there strikes me as ‘happy chaos.’ It’s not the chaos of no one knows what’s going on, but the chaos of great enrichment. Coming from outside, I’ve been delighted and very impressed, particularly with the young people of the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Let’s not forget, may I also add, that there’s a rich tradition already in Houston of African-American Catholic culture, from Louisiana. That should be noted.
Cardinal Foley, you’ve been known as the voice of the Vatican through your Christmas and Easter commentaries during the televised Masses. Is there any way, with your new duties as a cardinal and with the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, that you’ll be able to continue that?
Foley:The Cardinal Secretary of State told me I could continue that, so God willing, at Christmas you’ll hear the ghost of Christmas past. By the way, not only that, but I had been previously invited to go to Houston for the dedication of their new co-cathedral and do television commentary for that. I said yes, and I’m going to keep that promise … whether he [DiNardo] wants me or not!
DiNardo: We always want you, Cardinal Foley. It’ll be good to see you, and to have a professional who knows what he’s doing.
Do you know when you’ll take possession of your titular churches, and do you know anything about them?
DiNardo: I don’t know a whole lot about my titular church. I found out what it was the other day, and I’m doing some research on it now. It’s an ancient church, I think it’s 8th or 9th century. It is near St. Mary Major, down the street from there … and it’s a parish. I am not taking possession immediately, but probably within the next couple of months. It’s called Sant Eusebio.
Foley: My church is San Sebastiano al Palatino. It’s supposed to be the site of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, who was first pierced with many arrows and nursed back to health. When they found he had been nursed back to health, they invited him again to worship the emperor, and when he refused to do so, he was beaten to death. His body was thrown into a drain right near where the titular church is. Then his body was taken out and buried at San Sebastiano on the Appian Way. So, San Sebastiano al Palatino is built on the site of the martyrdom, not where the saint is buried. It’s a very ancient church. It was redone in the 16th century, but it goes back much further than that.