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Cardinal Timothy Dolan Reflects On Life-Altering Experience At The Vatican

His Eminence Ready To Return To New York And Get Back To Business
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan waves to the crowd gathered in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican for a private audience by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 20, 2012. (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

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VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork) — Cardinal Timothy Dolan is wrapping up his trip to Rome, and is heading home.

On Monday, the leader of New York’s archdiocese sat down with CBS 2’s Tony Aiello to share some thoughts on his elevation to cardinal – and the special moment he shared with his mom and Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Dolan admitted to being physically very tired. Let’s not forget he spent nine days in Israel just before coming here to Rome. He told Aiello he returns to New York grateful for the honor from the pope, and ready to get back to work.

“Always, I bring home from Rome a deeper sense of confidence in the future of the Church,” Dolan said.

PHOTOS: Elevation Of Timothy Dolan

Dolan reflected on the weekend that saw him honored by the pope and covered by the international media as one of the Catholic Church’s leading voices in the world.

“His movements are tracked with the most interest inside the Vatican itself. There are a lot of people here in the Vatican who look across the water to Timothy Dolan to say ‘that guy is a rising star,’” said John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.

1010 WINS Reporter Juliet Papa was in Vatican City…

From celebrating mass to enjoying a meal, Dolan’s every move in Rome was under a media microscope. The cardinal said he knows he risked overexposure.

“What are you spending all this time on this guy representing this church filled with scandal? Dolan asked.

Dolan said critics have a point, but he thinks they also miss the message.

“We belong to the Church, not because we’re saints, but because we are sinners, who are trying to be saints,” Dolan said. “Catholics believe a blessing from the pope will help them in that task.”

On Monday, the pilgrims who accompanied the 22 new cardinals enjoyed an audience with Pope Benedict. Each new prince of the Church was allowed to present a chosen few personally to the pope. Cardinal Dolan gave that honor to his 84-year-old mother, Shirley, who said the pope told her son “she is too young to be your mother!” He said ‘thank you for giving him to the Church.”

Dolan said now that he’s a member of the Church elite, eligible to elect the next pope, he’s got some work to do.

“It won’t surprise you that I’m gonna have to start to get to know my brother cardinals better, the different groups. Those are things I’m going to have to get serious about,” Dolan said.

Aiello asked the cardinal about Benedict XVI, who is so very different from his beloved predecessor. The souvenir shops around the Vatican are dominated by merchandise honoring John Paul II. You really have to look hard to find anything featuring the current pope. Cardinal Dolan told Dolan he doesn’t sense it bothers Benedict at all.

“This is a man who knows his strengths and who knows his weaknesses. He knows he’s not a John Paul II. But he also knows he has qualities when it comes to teaching and preaching that are unparalleled. And he’s made a wise decision to concentrate on those,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Dolan will leave Rome Tuesday and return to his duties in New York on Ash Wednesday, feeding the hungry at a soup kitchen as the season of Lent begins. He said he’s also going to concentrate on fixing the Cardinal’s Ring the pope gave him. It’s currently too small. Dolan blamed all that tempting pasta he enjoyed in Rome.

What do you think about Dolan’s elevation to Cardinal? Do you think he should be considered as a potential successor to the Pope? Sound off in our comments section below.