VATICAN CITY (RNS) One the eve of his elevation to cardinal, New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan said he would like to change the caricature of his city as a modern-day Gomorrah.
“New York seems to have an innate interest and respect for religion and I’m going to bring that up because I don’t like that caricature that New York is some neo-Sodom and Gomorrah,” Dolan told Reuters after celebrating Mass here on Friday (February 17).

“I have found the New York community to be very religious and innately respectful of religion, interested in religion,” he said.

After three years as the Big Apple’s archbishop, Dolan is slated to be elevated to cardinal at a ceremony conducted by Pope Benedict XVI here on Saturday. He will be one of 22 cardinals created by Benedict.

Earlier on Friday, Dolan addressed the pope and more that 130 cardinals from around the world during a day of “prayer and reflection” at the Vatican.

He spoke of how to spread the faith in a secularized world and managed to draw laughter from his audience, including Benedict, when he apologized for delivering his speech in a broken Italian: “I speak Italian like a child,” he said.

Drawing on sources as diverse as St. Augustine and Martin Sheen’s “The Way,” he told cardinals that spreading the gospel must be “accomplished with a smile, not a frown.”

Noting that a cardinal’s red cassock symbolizes his willingness to defend the faith “even to the shedding of (his) blood,” Dolan jokingly asked Pope Benedict “Holy Father, can you omit ‘to the shedding of your blood’ when you present me with the biretta?”.

“Of course not!” Dolan continued. “We are but ‘scarlet audio-visual aids’ for all of our brothers and sisters also called to be ready to suffer and die for Jesus.”

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Benedict praised Dolan’s speech as “stirring, joyous and profound.”

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