By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan was in Syracuse on Nov. 6 to celebrate Mass in honor of the Diocese’s 125th anniversary. He joined Bishop of Syracuse Robert Cunningham for a brief press conference in advance of the Mass.
The bishop and the archbishop fielded a number of questions on current social issues. Asked for his thoughts on the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, Archbishop Dolan said he found it “kind of hard to make an assessment” due to the movement’s lack of a consistent, coherent message. But, he said, “in a very tough economic time in our nation’s history, it’s good to ask moral questions. It’s always good to say, how are the poor taken care of, is justice being served, is there a sense of honesty and integrity in our business dealings. If this calls attention to that, no matter how, at times, awkward or fluid it might seem, [that’s] not bad.”
Archbishop Dolan, while making it clear that he was not predicting or endorsing a candidate, also spoke about the prospect of the American people electing a Mormon — Republican hopeful Mitt Romney — as their next president. Citing his address to the Anti-Defamation League, the archbishop said that an area of future Jewish-Catholic cooperation would be “making sure that people are not branded or harassed or put aside politically because of their religion.” He referenced the discrimination faced by both Jews and Catholics throughout history and said that, “we have to be on high alert to see that that doesn’t happen to others…. There may be reasons not to vote for [former] Governor Romney. One of them should not be that he’s a Mormon.”
The upcoming changes to the Roman Missal were also discussed. Archbishop Dolan pointed out that “the substance of the liturgy, the meat of the way Catholics pray our greatest prayer, which we call the Mass… hasn’t changed since the Last Supper… when Jesus gave us the Mass. But how we’ve prayed, the words we’ve used, the gestures, the clothing, that has changed. In other words, cosmetically.” He went on to say that the changes to the text aren’t dramatic and that they “express things a bit more poetically, a bit more beautifully, and a bit more in fidelity to the definitive text.” Bishop Cunningham echoed the sentiment, saying that the “language is really beautiful. It’s lofty. It’s not the everyday language we use. There’s a conscious effort to give new meaning and a new depth to the language we use.”
The Archbishop also discussed the church’s ongoing efforts to address the sexual abuse crisis.
“We can report that tremendous progress has been made,” said Archbishop Dolan. But, he said, “we can never let down our defense…. If the church was an example of what not to do in this regard 20, 25 years ago, which, sadly, we were, now we want to be the example of what to do. And we are getting there. We still have a way to go, but we are getting there.”
But the focus was on the reason for the weekend’s celebration: the Diocese’s 125 years as a faith community.
“The 125th anniversary is a cause for great celebration,” said Bishop Cunningham. “We give praise and thanks to God for all the blessings that our diocese has known since its date of foundation. We are people of faith today, and we look forward to a future that’s bright with hope.”
“We bishops deal with a lot of problems,” Archbishop Dolan added. “We’re familiar with sobering statistics about difficulties and challenges we have in the church…. But a day like this — you just beam. You see the sacrifices, the commitment, the devotion of our people, the goodness of our priests. We’re proud of the past, but very confident about the future. This is what it’s all about.”