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The Cardinal Flies South: Immigrants from the South and North Bring Cardinal to Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

The great influx of Catholic immigrants from all different directions, from Latin America, from Asia, and from Africa, and including Yankees from the North, has contributed to the election of Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church.

In his press conference when his elevation to a Cardinal was announced, Archbishop DiNardo said:

“I believe the Holy Father is honoring this local church of Galveston-Houston, its past and present bishops, priests, deacons, religious and faithful for their love and loyalty to Jesus Christ and their affection and communion with the See of Peter.

“He is also recognizing the great growth of the Catholic population in this arch-diocese, in the state of Texas and generally in the southern part of the United States. What a great honor and joy it is for all of us here in Southeast Texas to be so recognized by Pope Benedict XVI. Our great diversity and richness of peoples are matched by our unity of faith and love for the Lord and his church.”

Not all may agree that immigrants are good for us, but having a Cardinal to speak in defense of human rights and comprehensive immigration reform is good.

The local CBS TV station presented a program (with the help of Casa Juan Diego) interpreting Archbishop DiNardo’s elevation as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church as a sign of the Vatican’s support for comprehensive immigration reform.

In supporting immigration reform the Archbishop is carrying on the tradition of his predecessor, Archbishop Fiorenza, who was always very supportive of immigrants and of the work of Casa Juan Diego, the reason we could continue. Fiorenza built up services to immigrants in all the parishes, insisting that parishes in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston have Spanish Masses, that seminarians learn Spanish; he encouraged the development of several Vietnamese parishes, and ordained many Vietnamese priests, along with services to many other immigrant groups in Houston as well as services and liturgies relating to the culture of the large African American Catholic com-munity here. A year or two before his retirement, the Diocese was made an Archdiocese and Bishop Fiorenza was made an Archbishop.

Archbishop DiNardo also supports the Vatican line against the death penalty. He recently wrote to ask that the sentence of a death row inmate be commuted, explaining the Church’s position on capital punishment (See a copy of his letter in this issue.)

Since the announcement of a Cardinal for Houston, a number of people have been quoted in the media about Archbishop DiNardo’s outstanding preaching. His studies and knowledge of theology and patristics emerges forcefully in his preaching.

We can testify to this. Listening to his first Palm Sunday sermon upon becoming the ordinary of the Archdiocese, we were inspired by the Archbishop’s profound reflection on the Passion according to St. Mark and the upcoming reading of the passion according to John, and then we were blown away by the dramatic conclusion to his homily: “If you think this Gospel is about material success, you are an idiot!”

That remark reminded us of Fr. John Hugo. Our first contact with Archbishop DiNardo was when he called us to say how interested he was to discover that we had dedicated a chapter in our book ( The Catholic Worker Movement: Intellectual and Spiritual Origins , Paulist Press) to Fr. John Hugo, who was pastor of his parish in Pittsburgh during his adolescence. Father Hugo was a theologian of the Catholic Worker movement who taught through the Famous Retreat that people and priests should radically follow the Gospel. Dorothy Day made that retreat over twenty times.

Dorothy and Peter and Fr. Hugo loved the Fathers of the Church and often quoted them, especially on the universal destination of goods (God created them for all, not just the wealthy few), the Gospel admonition to share with the poor, and the respect due all persons, which has to affect the views of Catholics on every issue. Archbishop DiNardo’s licentiate in sacred theology is in patristics

With the announcement, one blogger said, “There is nothing more thrilling than Archbishop DiNardo’s sermons when he quotes the Gospel in Greek and then translates it on the spot while connecting the teaching of the Fathers to us today.”

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVII, No. 6, November-December 2007.