RYE, N.Y. (CNS) — The three most recent popes exemplify the soul, head and heart of religion, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York told an interfaith group Sept. 29.

“All religions come to look to the pope for spiritual guidance and example,” he said. “Every religion, faith, church, organization, family needs a soul, a head and a heart.”

Cardinal Dolan addressed more than 600 people at the 35th annual conference of the Rye Women’s Interfaith Council, convened at the Church of the Resurrection in Rye. He acknowledged that the program was postponed from March to accommodate “my flimsy excuse of having to be in Rome to elect a new pope. Thank you for your patience.”


Blessed John Paul II was a “particularly gleaming example of the primacy of the soul,” Cardinal Dolan said. Despite the challenges he faced in war-torn Poland and throughout his life, the cardinal said, Blessed John Paul lived by the words he spoke to the pubic when he was elected pope in 1978: “Be not afraid.”

“The primacy of the spiritual, the essence of the soul,” he said, was demonstrated during the pope’s June, 1979 visit to Poland, when 1.5 million people gathered for Mass chanted spontaneously for 17 minutes: “We want God!”

Blessed John Paul “died before the world and was able to radiate the primacy of the soul even better,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Pope Benedict XVI “brilliantly reminded us of the role of the head,” he said. Benedict showed that reason, truth and faith blend together and “faith and reason are allied, they are best friends,” Cardinal Dolan said. God’s great gifts of faith and reason sometimes appear to be at odds, but they are not, he said.

“In a culture that would reduce religion to a personal hobby at best, and superstition at worst, it is good for us to recall that religion has been an engine of learning, education and human progress and that it is people of faith who best know that the world around us, of science and discovery, doesn’t take us away from God, but points to an architect beyond our wildest imaginations,” he said.

Religious groups should avoid the extremes of theism on one side and rationalism on the other, he added.

“Now, in Pope Francis, we have a man of heart on steroids,” Cardinal Dolan said. “He couldn’t play for the Yankees, his pastoral heart is so pumped up.”

Cardinal Dolan recounted examples of the pope’s tenderness and his compassionate interactions with individuals and groups during the first month of his papacy. Through his actions and his homilies, Francis is urging people to be kind to themselves, one another and God’s creation, Cardinal Dolan said.

He said the pope, like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, “has a radar for those in need.”

“In Pope Francis, we got a pope with heart, so buckle your seat belts!” he said.

Cardinal Dolan each of the three popes was called in his own era to demonstrate the gifts needed in his time.

In an aside before the closing hymn, Cardinal Dolan wondered if a collection would be taken. “Soul, head, heart, wallet?” he asked, to laughter from the clergy in the sanctuary from five different houses of worship.