Editor’s note: Timmian Massie studied theology at the North American College in Vatican City and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and for many years taught a course in Rome on the papacy and the Catholic Church for Marist College. He was asked to write an article on the importance of the appointment and what the new position will entail.

It’s not much of a surprise that New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a cardinal.

He and Benedict are in the same theological mold.

Dolan made many connections during his time as rector of the North American College, and he is Benedict’s selection as leader of 2.6 million Catholics in America’s most influential diocese.

The naming of a cardinal is often as much a credit to the importance of the archdiocese or Vatican position as it is to the man who is given the red hat.

While there are other duties, such as serving as a member of various “congregations,” or Vatican offices, the main job of a cardinal is to pick the next pope. It is rare that two cardinal-electors would come from the same archdiocese.

There are three reasons why this rule was waived for Dolan. First, his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, turns 80 on April 2, losing the right to participate in the next conclave to elect a pope.

Second, there will probably not be another consistory to add to the College of Cardinals for at least a year, possibly two.

Third, though thought to be in good health, Benedict turns 85 on April 16, making him the sixth oldest pope in history.

An important See like New York would be expected to have a participant in the duties after a pope’s death, when the Chair of Peter becomes “sede vacante,” a vacant seat.

It is interesting that Pope Benedict chose the feast of the Epiphany, known in some cultures as the feast of the Three Kings or Three Wise Men.

It was on this feast day during the reign of John Paul II that bishops were consecrated by the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica, a tradition ended by Benedict.

(Source: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20120107/NEWS01/301070012/1006)