VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork) – The Catholic Church is closely watching the attention Archbishop Timothy Dolan is receiving this week in Rome, praise and adulation one expert says is exactly what it needs right now.
Doffing his NYPD cap and greeting pilgrims Thursday at famed restaurant "Cecilia Matella," Archbishop Timothy Dolan is almost overwhelming his admirers with attention, reports CBS 2's Tony Aiello.
"He is just accessible all the time. We got back to our hotel last night after Mass and he was there," said Putnam County resident Diane Sclafani.
At the Vatican, New York's next cardinal was also attracting attention from those who follow church ins and outs.
"Dolan from a media and pop culture point of view is a rock star. He just exudes charisma, sort of charisma on steroids," National Catholic Reporter' John Allen said.
Allen calls Dolan the star of the consistory, and Pope Benedict XVI could use some star power on his team.
Shocking headlines in Italian papers have claimed there's a "death plot" against the pope. He has also been rocked by leaks about alleged corruption at the Vatican Bank.
"There is an enormous crisis swirling around this place right now, the Vatican's version of the 'wiki leaks' scandal. Confidential documents are being turned over by moles inside the Vatican on a daily basis, creating a kind of Italian soap opera," Allen said.
"I usually leave grateful, grateful for what we got in the Catholic Church in the United States," Dolan said Thursday.
The archbishop clearly has little appetite for discussing Vatican scandal. His appetite for Italian cuisine, however, is another story.
"You gotta avoid the cream pastas, the 'dolce' and the vino," Dolan said, adding when told that's part of the fun, "my sentiments exactly! Ha!"
NEXT UP FOR HIS EMINENCE …
When Dolan receives his cardinal's hat at magnificent St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday he'll also take possession of what's called a "titular" church in Rome.
Dolan's is a modest house of worship in a working class neighborhood – the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.
The priest there said he couldn't be happier to have his church linked to Archbishop Dolan.
Parishioner Kathy Zappia, a former New Yorker, agreed.
"We're very happy that we're giving importance to our church and our parish!" Zappia said.
The archbishop said he quietly visited the church Wednesday and was charmed by its simplicity and impressed by its outreach.
"They have a neighborhood of Rome with lots of immigrants. People were saying we have a lot of Africans, a lot of Asians, and I was thinking, wow, it sounds like New York! So I felt very much at home," Dolan said.
However, some would like to see Dolan preside at a grander church in Rome -- St. John Lateran, the personal church of the pope.
"I love him! And maybe one day he will be our pope from New York, from America!" Stuyvesant Town resident Bea Bleza said.
WCBS 880's Rich Lamb With A Vatican Expert On Dolan's Rising Stardom
"Now he's stepped in to be the one guy to lead all of the Cardinals in their spiritual meditation ahead of that event. I don't think you need a Ph.D. in Vaticanology to figure out that Tim Dolan is a rising star in the Catholic hierarchy," Allen told WCBS 880 reporter Rich Lamb.
Allen said he wouldn't bet the farm on Dolan's being a candidate for Pope in the next conclave, but said he is one of a handful of the most important bishops in the world.
The rock star reception he's receiving here has certainly been noticed at the Vatican, but so far Dolan is seldom listed as one of the "papabili" -- a serious candidate for pope.
"There's a kind of informal taboo against a superpower pope. The notion is the Vatican is like the UN, its leader has to be seen as a fair broker to all parties, not an agent of the CIA or something like that," Allen said.
"But that said, if it weren't for his passport, that is, if it weren't for the accident of being born in America, I think Timothy Dolan would probably be on a lot of people's short list as a serious candidate to be the next Pope," Allen told WCBS 880's Lamb.
The archbishop absolutely hates the pope talk, according to his brother, Bob.
"If you ever want to make Archbishop Dolan angry or uncomfortable, bring up that subject. He hates that subject. Don't go there," Bob Dolan said.
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