By Bill Brewer
Cardinal Timothy Dolan led the Diocese of Knoxville’s Following Jesus Conference April 18 at All Saints Church, focusing on Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis as different but important examples for following Christ.
(Note: audio recordings of the Following Jesus Conference are available on the Catholic Radio Knoxville page)
In describing Saint John Paul II, Cardinal Dolan said the pontiff who led the world Church from his election in October 1978 until his death in April 2005 exemplified the heart of the Church by his remarkable acts of love in the name of Jesus Christ.
Cardinal Dolan cited examples of Saint John Paul II’s acts, including his return to Poland in the face of Communist dictatorship. The pope appealed to his native country’s adults and youth to be faithful and they responded with devotion to the pope for his courageous effort to underscore Catholicism in Poland despite the Communist government’s efforts to silence religion.
Cardinal Dolan said Pope Benedict XVI was an example of one of the Church’s best minds, citing his encyclicals like Caritas in veritate (Charity in Truth), Spe salvi (Saved by Hope), and Deus Caritas Est (On Christian Love), and his writing on the Church in Africa.
Pope Benedict was elected in April 2005 and retired from the papacy in February 2013.
And the cardinal held up Pope Francis as the soul of the Church, which he said was apparent from the earliest moments of his papacy.
Cardinal Dolan, who was a member of the papal conclave that elected Francis on March 13, 2013, said in the first moments of his papacy Francis altered his schedule to greet the thousands of people who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square upon the announcement of his election so they wouldn’t have to stand in the rain long.
Another example of Pope Francis’ soul that was apparent early in his papacy was his concern for the poor in the world, Cardinal Dolan cited.
The cardinal said these three popes perfectly illustrate, through their lives, a dedication to following Jesus and encouraged Diocese of Knoxville parishioners attending his talk to try and follow their example in everyday life.
Following his talk, Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass at All Saints Church, with Cardinal William Levada, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Richard F. Stika concelebrating. The three cardinals were the featured guests at A Conversation with the Cardinals at the Tennessee Theatre later in the evening. The event was emceed by Bishop Stika and was attended by some 1,200 people from the diocese.
The Following Jesus Conference was part of the historic groundbreaking weekend for the new Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The cardinals and Bishop Stika joined Sacred Heart Cathedral rector Father David Boettner in breaking ground for the new cathedral on April 19. Before the groundbreaking, Cardinal Rigali celebrated Mass at the cathedral, with Cardinal Dolan and Levada concelebrating with Bishop Stika and eight bishops from around the country. They included Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, Pa., Bishop Herbert Bevard of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Bishop David Choby of Nashville, Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, titular bishop of Tamallula and auxiliary to the archbishop of Philadelphia, Bishop Roger Foys of Covington, Ky., and Bishop John Gaydos of Jefferson City, Mo.