Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Churchman Remains Himself

Early this morning in the capital, before a National Shrine crowd of 6,000-plus and an international TV audience, the Cardinal of the South began his first star-turn in the Klieg lights thus:

"Those of you who've been keeping vigil through the night have permission to doze through this homily."

Dan DiNardo, however, was wide awake (and the result is being transcribed).

You already knew that the Churchman of the Year wasn't letting the red hat -- nor, while we're at it, even his own fan club on Facebook -- go to his head.

Per usual, the hometown media's playing catch-up:
Even in the full attire required for a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Daniel DiNardo appears completely at ease.

With a sincere smile that reaches his warm, dark eyes, he carries himself as though he is surrounded by close friends, and he speaks with an affection both for those around him and for his new position.

“I’m still the same Dan DiNardo,” he said prior to baptizing and confirming nine inmates at the Wynne Unit. “While being a cardinal is a heavy responsibility, and I consider it a great honor to be a cardinal, I wouldn’t want to change my personality.”...

“Even though I had the title of cardinal added, I’m still the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, so it’s been awful busy,” he said. “Your schedule gets kind of messed up, but this is a great honor both for the diocese and for me....

“Because I’m in the South, I have to make sure I’m paying attention to the pastoral and the human needs of people,” he said. “As a cardinal, if I sign a letter, it may have some effect and I take that very seriously.”
Since being elevated to his new position in the Catholic church, DiNardo said he has experienced things he may not have gotten to experience as an archbishop.

“Without being too specific, a national legislator wanted to talk with me recently,” he said. “We had a very frank but a very pleasant discussion, and I feel like we talked about a lot of issues that needed addressing.

“I don’t think, if I weren’t a cardinal, that it would have happened.”

Overall, DiNardo said his priorities have stayed close to the same principles he has always maintained.

“My major reason to be with the church is to preach, teach, celebrate the sacrament[s] and to be with people,” he said. “Being with people is the part I love the most. In my opinion, it’s the best, most wonderful part of my job.”
...and, to think, it's only just beginning.

PHOTO 1: AFP/Getty
PHOTO 3: Smiley N. Pool/(Removed by order of the) Houston Chronicle