Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, will be among the cardinals participating in the conclave that will elect the next pope. He spoke with Texas Catholic Editor David Sedeño by phone on Feb. 22, prior to his departure to Rome.
Texas Catholic: Your eminence, there is great excitement among Catholics here that we will, for the first time in history, have a cardinal from Texas who will have a hand in selecting the new pope. How are you preparing for this monumental task?
Cardinal DiNardo: Prayer! Probably a little reflection and reading. Right now, I am still busy redoing my schedule to do stuff getting ready to leave. My suspicions are that the more intense praying and reflecting and even talking to others will take place when I get to Rome. We just had a big celebration of Mass at noon today at our cathedral thanking and honoring Pope Benedict XVI on this Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It was important that we do that. He is still the pope. He is going to be retiring. We have got to do some work on what he has done. I think what the Holy Father has himself accomplished in eight years — his work is a rock of teaching. I’ve got to, and I think everyone has to, reflect on that. He bore good fruit and his age, health and other conditions have made him say that ‘I can’t go forward in the kind of way that I should.’ That serves to me as a genuine basis as to how I will be reflecting on the needs for his successor.
Texas Catholic: Have you heard from your brother bishops in Texas?
Cardinal DiNardo: I’ve talked to a couple of bishops, but have not done it in any systematic way. It just seems to be more episodic where someone will say something to you. The bishops know that it’s a personal responsibility that falls on the cardinals. The bishops are certainly free to speak and talk about the vision of the church, but I believe they realize that this is a personal responsibility that each cardinal has. So I have to do some genuine reflecting. Here in Houston I have received a lot of cards and letters from people and comments at Masses from people who say that they are praying for me. But what I have found equally fine is that I’ve received cards and letters from non-Catholics. They say that they are praying for me and that they know that this is important and so they are keeping me in mind. I thought that was very generous, incredibly generous and so I am thankful for them.
Texas Catholic: Cardinal DiNardo, there has been discussion about the next pope and whether he should be from the developing world. Will the Catholic Church’s tremendous growth in Texas lead you to look for any specific qualities in our next pope?
Cardinal DiNardo: I look at just my own Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and it’s like the United Nations here. It reminds me of how large and how richly diverse the Catholic Church is in expressions of cultures. It reminds me of two things: One, that we have to be aware of that. And that we have to be aware that the pope is the one who brings unity of faith to the church. So there is that. I, myself, would be highly receptive to our new pope who would come from the developing world, somewhere from the south — somewhere from South America, Asia, Africa — whatever. But you also have to look at the candidates and you have to look at what are the needs of the church and someone who comes not necessarily from the Third World may have a very open and discerning eye of the issues that are so important there. So that is the more important issue – to be aware of where the large number of Catholics are growing and where they are from.
Texas Catholic: Your eminence, as you prepare to leave for Rome and when you are in Rome participating in the conclave, what should we Catholics in Texas do?
Cardinal DiNardo: This is a good time to look at the meaning of the See of Peter and the Petrine Ministry and its importance to the Catholic Church. I think this is a time of catechesis and formation—and prayer. We need both public prayer and we need prayer of people in their hearts to ask the Lord and the Holy Spirit to guide the cardinals. This is a good time to ask, ‘Why is the office of Peter so important?’ It could take us into the first analysis of the gospel texts, and then to follow that trajectory through some history of the church and even something as simple and straightforward as what does the catechism say about the role of Peter and, therefore, Peter’s ministry in the church as it continues in the papacy. Those would be good ways that we could make ourselves more intellectually alert because I think other people might ask us questions about that.