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NY Catholic School Students Greet Cardinal Dolan News With Cheers, Questions

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Archbishop Timothy Dolan presides over a sprawling school system that stretches from Staten Island, to Poughkeepsie. His appointment to the College of Cardinals was greeted with joy by administrators and a certain amount of confusion by students.

The news came to most students at Archbishop Stepinac High School over the public address system Friday morning, but many who spoke with CBS 2's Lou Young were unsure of the significance.

"What does it mean? Wow, that's a difficult question," one said.

"Well he has authority over an area and," another said before conceding he didn't know.

So the news is good, but religion by definition involves a certain amount of mystery, and Catholicism, by structure, has a little more mystery than most. Even at a Catholic school the significance of Friday's events needs to be explained.

"Not all of them (understand the significance), no. Very few," said Fr. Thomas Collins, president of the school.

"We have the Pope who is the Vicar of Christ on Earth and the Cardinals are the group of men who help him make decisions," explains Father Justin Sinnante.

Sinnante told his theology class at Stepinac the Cardinals are like the U.S. Senate, but different because they elect the next Pope. The position is for life but they retire from active duties at the age of 80. The facile young minds quickly leapt to practical politics.

"This means he could be the first American Pope!" one student exclaimed.

"You're right. He's one of the men who could definitely elect the next Pope. He's definitely young enough for that. Basically if God wants it, he could be the next Pope," Sinnante said.

Dolan, in fact, has already been elected to lead his peers at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Even those who disagree with him say he almost impossible not to like, good qualities for any politician. Teens who've met him seem to like him the most.

"Nicest guy in the world," one said. "Never anything but happy."

And now he's headed to Rome for a promotion next month.

Dolan has been vocal proponent of re-structuring the Catholic School system, making it "smaller so it can be better," in his words.

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