Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he was as "startled and as anxious" as everyone else at the news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation Monday morning.
"I find myself eager for some news, I find myself itching to read the statement in Latin that the Holy Father made, and I find myself kind of somber," Dolan said in a Today Show interview, revealing that at first, before the news was confirmed, he believed it was only a rumor.
On Monday morning, the 85-year-old pontiff said that he will step down as head of the Roman Catholic Church on Feb. 28 due to his "advanced age" which prevents him from adequately fulfilling his duties in the ministry.
"Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff," Pope Benedict XVI said in a statement marking the first time in nearly 600 years that a sitting pope has willfully resigned from his position.
Cardinal Dolan said that he "loves this pope," reminding viewers that every Catholic views the pope as the Holy Father. "The world looks to him with respect and affection."
The USCCB president said that he feels a special bond with Pope Benedict XVI, who anointed him to serve as Archbishop of New York.
"On the other hand, my appreciation for him, which was already high, is enhanced a bit, because with this sense of realism that he has for the office of the successor of St. Peter that he says 'You know, I may not be up to it now, and perhaps I can best serve Jesus and His people by stepping aside.' So I have to admire him," the cardinal commented.
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Dolan shared that an "enormous responsibility" now falls on his shoulders, and the shoulders of other cardinals around the world, as the Roman Catholic Church looks forward to appointing a new pope.
"Except for prayer I don't know what else to do; I will await instruction along with everybody else."
As to what qualities the church will be looking for in a new Pope, Cardinal Dolan offered: "A good place to start is to look at Pope Benedict. There is a learning, there is a savviness about the world, there is a theological depth, there is an unquestionably personal piety and holiness, there is a linguistic talent, there is a knowledge of the church universal."