Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the 2015 New York Encounter. Photo by Emily Marsolek

Three Questions with Cardinal Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan addresses Pope Francis' upcoming United States visit and young people in the Catholic Church in an interview at the 2015 New York Encounter.
Stephen Sanchez

Your Eminence, thank you for your time and for sitting down with TracesOnline. It’s great to have you here at the New York Encounter, now in its fifth year, at the heart of what Pope John Paul II called the “capital of the world.” What do you think an event like this means for the church in the United States?

You know what we need today? We borrow the beautiful term of St. John Paul II: solidarity. We need to be together. Very often it seems like we’re alone, very often it seems like everybody is against us, very often it seems as if the values that we cherish are not held dear by others. And so, we need support, we need strength and that comes at a gathering like this. When these people from all over the United States come and they see hundreds and thousands of others that have the same love and faith and hope as they do, that has to bolster them. Now, that’s what the whole church is about and within the Church, that there would be so many of these beautiful gatherings and assemblies of movements, that this would remind us that we’re not alone. That not only is Jesus with us, but we’re together in all of this.

This year, one of the exhibits at the New York Encounter is on the “Millennial Experience” which explores the experience of young adults in society and in the Church. We know that, statistically they are among the least represented in Church, but they also exhibit a deep spiritual hunger for meaning and purpose in their lives. What does this mean you, as a pastor? What do you think is the best way to accompany these young people today?

We find that in our young adult ministry, when people come they say, “Wow, I thought I was alone. I thought I was the only one believing. I thought I was the only one trying for virtue and God’s grace and depending on His mercy.” And when they come together they see that they were not alone. Not only is there strength in numbers from a natural point of view there’s strength in togetherness from a spiritual point of view. God has revealed that He prefers to deal with us as a family, together. He did that with Israel and he does that now with the new Israel, what we call the Church. And gatherings like this can be an icon of that, and we need it. So when these “millennials,” who are told constantly that they’re has-beens, that they’re out of it, and that no one their age is going to church anymore or belonging to a faith, when they come here they say, “Boy, I guess I was wrong.”

Pope Francis will hopefully be visiting New York City this year as he travels to the United States for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. This must be an exciting time for you. What do you think are the important things the pope will address here in America?

I think we have hints in what he’s already said. Some people are already calling him the “Ecclesial Pope.” He’s the pope that is constantly pointing us to the Church. Benedict and John Paul pointed us to God the Father and God the Son and Francis is pointing us to the Church. You want the Father? You want the Son? Then you need His Church. Why don’t you come with people who are on that same journey, on that same search for the face of God and the search for their own human face, their authentic human identity, which is the very theme of this New York Encounter. So, that’s what he’s going to tell us, he’s going to say, “Welcome, come back. We need you, and by the way, you need us.” And the Church, for all of her flaws is like us with all of our flaws, and we’re together in this.