Hours before being installed as the Archbishop of New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan addressed some hot-button issues at a news conference.
"I think there is no escaping the fact that the pulpit of the archbishop of New York has a particular prominence, whether I like it or not," he said from St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church on the East Side.
The 59-year-old St. Louis native also answered a bevy of questions about bringing more people to the church and communicating with the city's immigrant community.
"The problem is they want to believe without belonging," Dolan said. "We have to examine our conscience as a church to say, 'have we done that?'"
While not outright endorsing sanctuary for illegal immigrants, Dolan did say he wanted to protect all of his parishioners.
"What we've got to do is revive within the more settled Catholic people a sense of energetic solicitude for the immigrants that are coming today," he said. "Once again, the immigrants have got to look to us for care, for support and for love."
He said he would remain steadfast over what he called "moral issues" like gay marriage and abortion. However, he would not specify how he plans to fight Governor David Paterson's planned proposal to legalize same-sex marriage.
Dolan even commented that the Catholic Church has watered down parts of the faith over the years to make it more palatable.
He says he brings a change of style, not substance to the position.
In regards to sexual abuse by clergy members, he said while there has been progress, there is still a lot that needs to be done.
"I feel that some of those criticisms have been unfair," he said. "People who have said that I could have done more, we bishops could have done more, they may have a point," he said. "We need to listen to them. We need all the help we can get."
Dolan lamented the shrinking number of priests and nuns, too, saying he resented depictions that a life serving God is dour and restrictive. He compared the sacrifices of the clergy to the sacrifices of everyday men and women.
"We got to get the impression across that to commit oneself totally, exclusively, in an undistracted way to Jesus Christ and his church as a priest, as a sister, as a brother is one of the most freeing, liberating, joyful styles of life that you can lead."
Some parishioners attending early-morning Masses at St. Patrick's Cathedral said they are very hopeful about the incoming archbishop.
"He just seems to have an infectious smile, a happy way about him and I think it's going to be uplifting to a lot of people in the city," said one churchgoer. "Not only Catholics who come here to see him, but I think the whole city is really going to enjoy him."
"He has to bring the Catholics back to the church. I think that's a really important part of his job," said another.
"He's not coming into the church at an easy time," said a third. "But we wish him the best and we're stepping in to pray for him."
The installation rites began last night with Solemn Vespers and the incoming archbishop knocking on the doors of the cathedral. Dolan was welcomed inside by 77-year-old Edward Cardinal Egan.
It's the first time in the history of the New York Archdiocese that this ritual has taken place, because all the previous occupants have died in office. Egan was forced to retire last year because of his age.
In Dolan's first homily before his congregation, he stressed belief in the Catholic faith amid some of the challenges the church faces.
"There's sin and fear and sadness to keep us up closed up inside, evident in so many problems and worries," he said. "The scandal of clergy sexual abuse and caring for those hurt. The challenges of strengthening our parishes, schools and charitable outreach. The threats to marriage, family, to the unborn baby and the fragile the human life in all ages. The need for vocations. The list is long. The list is haunting."
Earlier this week, Dolan reintroduced himself to the New York media and welcomed his family to dinner at his new Midtown residence.
Dolan served as the leader of the Milwaukee Archdiocese for nearly eight years.