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Cardinal Dolan Reflects on Last Meeting with Pope Benedict

During an interview with the TODAY show, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York described his last meeting with the pope as being "kind of somber" and that the Holy Father appeared very fragile.

“I don’t mind telling you it was kind of somber for me,’’ the Cardinal told Savannah Guthrie in Rome yesterday. “I love him very much. He means the world. He’s like the daddy of the family, and to see this gentle, learned, loving, holy man, to see him very fragile, to see him having made what I consider a remarkably humble and courageous decision, it was very moving. It was a very tender moment.”

As the focus now turns toward the upcoming Conclave which will determine Benedict's successor, Dolan said "there's kind of a mixed feeling, if I'm detecting it right."

He went to call himself a "rookie" when it comes to Conclaves. "I’ve never participated in a conclave before, so you hear the cardinals say there’s a strong desire to have a new pope as soon as possible. For that to happen in the most prudent, enlightened way, we need some time of prayer, reflection and getting to know each other.’’

One on Benedict's last acts as Pope was to relax rules that will allow the Conclave to get underway earlier than usual, which could happen as early as next week.

“I’m finding myself on two levels,’’ Dolan told Gurthrie. “First of all is mourning the departure of Pope Benedict and celebrating what’s already I would claim is his great legacy. Only now am I beginning to concentrate on the ‘who’ (of Benedict’s successor). There are some people that come to my mind. You would not be surprised that I don’t feel comfortable sharing them with you.

“I’m not afraid to say that all the cardinals are praying for guidance, beginning to look more closely at other cardinals, and are looking forward to some days of prayer (and) reflection, so that the decision we make will be a good one.”

The Cardinal did go on to say that he did not feel Pope Benedict’s abdication was a mistake, especially in light of the scandals - from the ongoing priestly sex abuse scandal to the now infamous "Vatileaks" affair that found Benedict's private personal documents leaked to the press.

"I would have such high regard for the Holy Father’s sense of discernment, prayer and decision-making that I would not think it was a mistake,’’ Dolan said. “Look, there’s always been sin, there’s always been scandal, there’s always been some corruption in the members of the church. At a time like this when the church is under such intense scrutiny, those are obviously going to come through. We refer to the church as the mystical body of Christ. There are warts on the mystical body, there are scars, and as St. Augustine says, often the mystical body of Christ limps because the church is in pain. The church is sometimes wounded, and we see that now.”

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