By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, was elected this morning vice-president of the U.S. bishops' conference, putting him in line to become the body's president in three years' time.
The race shaped up as a two-way contest between Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee and Kicanas. Kicanas drew 30 percent of the vote on the first ballot, followed by Dolan with 22 percent, while Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia each drew 12 percent. On the second ballot, Kicanas had 46 percent of the vote and Dolan followed with 34 percent, meaning 107 and 79 votes respectively.
On the third and final ballot, Kicanas defeated Dolan 55 to 45 percent, winning 128 votes to Dolan's 106.
While both Kicanas and Dolan are seen as popular, pastoral figures, in broad strokes Kicanas is seen as a theological centrist, and a major supporter of the bishops' conference in the tradition of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. (Kicanas is himself a Chicago native.)
Dolan, the former rector of the North American College in Rome, is typically seen as a "John Paul II" bishop, concerned more with evangelism and defense of Catholic identity than with ecclesiastical bureaucracy.
In a footnote of local interest, the election of Kicanas means that the bishops' conference will, in effect, now be led by two Chicagoans -- George and Kicanas, a Chicago native now living somewhere else.