Just a few weeks ago I listened to Cardinal Timothy Dolan address those at the Eucharistic Congress in Charlotte, NC. I remarked to someone that Pope Francis may be coming to the US but right then we were listening to the American Pope. The remark has nothing to do with one’s leadership role in the American Church or the strength of an outside chance of really becoming the Roman Pontiff one day. It has to do with the charisma and personality to make Catholics excited with their Catholic identity. It has to do with putting forth a face of the Church that people feel confident in and want to rally around. It has to do with dreams for a Church that has turned the corner from scandals and years of declining numbers and influence and now finds itself at the dawn of a new era, a new Pentecost one may say.
I was in a large hall with thousands when Bishop Robert Barron was introduced as the keynote speaker for the World Meeting of Families. The standing ovation for him moved me with its length and it’s intensity. I saw tears in some eyes and large smiles all faces everywhere. And I thought that here is a man who not that long ago was an unknown entity. But after he made a video series that made Catholics see the beauty and richness of their Church, and after he began offering a Catholic context on everything from Spiderman movies to political debates, he more than anyone in the last 40 years made Catholicism relevant again to our American culture. And for it, he is admired, respected, but most of all, loved. Cardinal Dolan is still a favorite of many, but there is a new kid in town. We have a new American Pope.