Cardinal Timothy Dolan startled by Pope Benedict XVI's resignation

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, leads anniversary Mass at Immaculate Conception parish on November 17, 2012 in the Staten Island borough of New York City. Parts of Staten Island were hard hit by flooding from Superstorm Sandy.
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New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he was as startled as the rest of the world about Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will resign later this month due to failing health.

Dolan says he feels a special bond with the pope because he was the one that appointed him archbishop of New York.

Dolan, speaking on the "Today" show Monday, says he wears the ring and the cross the pope gave him.

In an official statement, Dolan said: "We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter. He delighted our beloved United States of America when he visited Washington and New York in 2008. As a favored statesman he greeted notables at the White House. As a spiritual leader he led the Catholic community in prayer at Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick's Cathedral. As a pastor feeling pain in a stirring, private meeting at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, he brought a listening heart to victims of sexual abuse by clerics."

The pope announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 because he's simply too infirm to carry on.

Dolan says the conclave to elect to a new pope would do well to look for the kinds of qualities Pope Benedict possessed: knowledge about the world, a theological depth, personal piety and linguistic talent.

"He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church. More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed," Dolan said in his statement.

What Dolan has not yet addressed is the possibility that he may be a candidate when the conclave of cardinals meets to pick the next pope in March.

Professor Chester Gillis, a theology professor at Georgetown University and the dean of Georgetown College, told "CBS This Morning," that the church may choose a cardinal of a less "advanced age" and that while the possibility is "remote," Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, could be a candidate.

For three years now, he's been the Archbishop of New York, the nation's most prominent pulpit. As Morley Safer reported for a 2011 "60 Minutes" profile (watch it at left), he's also been called the American Pope after his election to head the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Dolan was born in St. Louis, the son of an aircraft engineer. Dolan entered seminary at age 14 and destined for stardom: secretary to the papal nuncio, rector of the American seminary in Rome, and archbishop of Milwaukee, where he won over the flock when he gave a homily wearing a Green Bay Packers' Cheesehead.

His mission - as he sees it - is to change a perception of the church that ranges from negative to irrelevant. He wants to see the old church made new with zero tolerance of wayward priests and an emphasis on what he calls the most pure and noble experience Catholicism offers.