Cardinal Dolan Is Given a Roman Parish, Which Was Founded by Mexican Refugees

New York’s New Cardinal

Timothy M. Dolan becomes the eighth cardinal-archbishop of New York.

VATICAN CITY– Pope Benedict XVI directed the attention of the 22 new cardinals on Sunday to the Bernini-designed stained glass window behind him at St. Peter’s Basilica, in which an image of a dove sends out golden rays of faith.

“The church itself is like a window,” the pope told thousands of worshipers, as well as the cardinals, Timothy M. Dolan of New York among them. “The place where God draws near to us, where he comes toward our world.”

But for Cardinal Dolan, there is a far simpler window on the church 20 minutes west of St. Peter’s, in a working class neighborhood with modest brick and concrete apartment blocks where laundry hangs on the balcony and graffiti lines the entryways. Each new cardinal is assigned a Roman church of which he is the titular head, and for Cardinal Dolan it is Our Lady of Guadalupe of Monte Mario, a one-room church with a round window above the altar adorned with squares of clear glass arranged in a diamond shape.

It is a “simple church, even a poor church,” the pastor, Msgr.
Franco Mammoli, said in an interview.

The new cardinal’s titular church has little by the way of art above its basic wooden pews, and it was built in 1932. Though he remarked last week that he had been hoping for a historic church, he said he had already found inspiration there.

“It was a great place,” he said, “a beautiful active parish.”

The church has its own unique history. Above its altar is an icon, given to Pope Leo XIII in 1888 by Mexican Catholics that depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe. It commemorates an appearance by the Blessed Virgin Mary that was said to have occurred near Mexico City in 1531. Latin American Catholics particularly revere Our Lady of Guadalupe, and many churches around the world, including in New York, are dedicated to her name.

During the Mexican revolution in the early years of the 20th century, some Mexican Catholics fled to Rome, many settling in Monte Maria. In the 1930s, Pope Pius XI presented the icon to a group of exiled Mexican nuns as the centerpiece of their new Roman parish.

Today, there are 25,000 people in the parish, and while many are Italians,
others are from places as far as Peru and the Philippines. Father Mammoli was ordained at the parish in 1976, and has been there for much of his life.

The parish’s previous cardinal-protector, Adolfo Suárez Rivera, was
from Monterrey, Mexico, but Cardinal Dolan is not the first non-Mexican assigned to the church — the church at one time had a German cardinal.

Father Mammoli said the cardinal assigned to the parish provides a link between the congregation and the wider world, and also can help with more pragmatic issues. Cardinal Dolan said Father Mammoli wasn’t shy about expressing the church’s needs.

“The first thing he does is show me leaks and cracks in the wall and told me that the heating was broke. I said, ‘Look, I could have
stayed home for that,’” Cardinal Dolan exclaimed. “‘We got that at St. Patrick’s Cathedral!’”

Father Mammoli said it was a “surprise, a joy” to learn that Cardinal Dolan had been assigned to care for the parish, which has been without a cardinal
since Cardinal Rivera died four years ago. He said he would, as is customary, hang Cardinal Dolan’s new coat of arms (its motto: Lord Whom Shall I Go) above the parish’s main entrance.

“He was very kind, very human,” he said of Cardinal Dolan. “When he comes to Rome, he should feel like a Roman priest,” he said.

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