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Baptist Rev.
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Archbishop Cordileone's lives
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Some of Archbishop Cordileone's
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Sister Anne
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placeholder  October 1, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Some of Archbishop Cordileone's Oakland initiatives:
Faith education, youth and Latino ministry,
marriage, families, ecumenical actione

Archbishop Cordileone leaves the Cathedral of Christ the Light after the 50th anniversary Mass celebration Aug. 22.
JosÉ Luis Aguirre/The Catholic Voice

When he is installed on Oct. 4 as ninth archbishop of San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone will be the second-youngest archbishop in the United States, part of a wave of young bishops appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in Northern California.

The 56-year-old California native will be the first baby boomer archbishop of San Francisco, joining other boomers appointed to Bay Area dioceses in the past five years.

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Daly, 52, to the San Jose diocese, and Bishop Robert Vasa, 61, to Santa Rosa. Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, 56, was appointed in 2007.

The archbishop is also the latest in a string of Pope Benedict XVI's appointments of outspoken archbishops who urge political action in support of Catholic and natural law principles, particularly Catholic social teaching on immigration, and a consistent ethic of life and marriage. Recent appointments include Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.

Archbishop Cordileone has led or encouraged initiatives in the Oakland diocese in the areas of faith education, youth and young adult ministry, Hispanic ministry, support for marriage and families and ecumenical action.

Yet with only three years in Oakland, there are a number of significant issues Archbishop Cordileone has been working on in the Oakland diocese, that are unfinished.

These include addressing the debt from the building of the new Cathedral of Christ the Light, reorganizing the development efforts of the diocese and working with Catholic Charities of the East Bay to find an employee-friendly health care plan in keeping with church teaching. This problem stems from California law that requires contraceptive coverage by most employers and may affect other Catholic Charities organizations in the state, the Diocese of Oakland's Mike Brown said.

Archbishop Cordileone was ordained a priest in 1982, during the pontificate of Blessed Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), the same pope who appointed him auxiliary bishop of San Diego in 2002.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to head the Oakland diocese in 2009 and on July 27 appointed Archbishop Cordileone to the larger responsibilities of the San Francisco metropolitan see to succeed Archbishop George Niederauer, who is retiring.

A canon lawyer who attended public school through high school, Archbishop Cordileone does not shrink from the political arena. His work on behalf of preserving the traditional definition of marriage in the law earned the grandson of Sicilian immigrants the appellation "the godfather of Proposition 8."

Religious people are obligated to bring their values with them, and to vote with reference to those values, the archbishop said in an Aug. 13 interview on Immaculate Heart Radio. "Our light is supposed to shine brightly for all," the archbishop said.

John Watkins, life and justice coordinator for the Diocese of Oakland, said, "When Catholics are confused by what the church teaches, that's where he feels he needs to be really strong and clear — whether around immigration or marriage or abortion or the death penalty, he wants to, at least, articulate the church's teaching very clearly."

However, Princeton University professor Robert George says that Archbishop Cordileone has taken to heart the Second Vatican Council's teaching on the primary role and duty of laity in the modern world.

Bishop Cordileone addresses more than 1,000 participants during a rally in support of Proposition 8 on Oct. 27, 2008 at Skyline Church in La Mesa.
Thomas J. McKenna Courtesy Photo

The new archbishop was 6 years old when Vatican II (1962-65) convened.

"He's a team player. He doesn't assume because he's the bishop he's in charge of everything," said George. Archbishop Cordileone's support for other lay initiatives includes speaking at a 2010 action on immigration and labor rights in Oakland, walking each year in the Walk for Life West Coast and visiting Protestant minister Walter Hoye II who was jailed for trying to counsel pregnant women outside an abortion clinic.

Archbishop Cordileone also signed the 2009 Manhattan Declaration on religious freedom and spoke at the March 23, 2012, Stand Up Rally for religious freedom to protest the federal contraceptive mandate.

"How dare the government tell us our religion requires we only serve people of our faith," he said to loud cheers at the March 23 demonstration at the San Francisco Federal Building.

"This time it's Catholics, but it won't stop there."

The son of a commercial fisherman, Archbishop Cordileone attended public elementary and high school, and graduated with two bachelor's degrees in philosophy and theology before obtaining his doctoral degree in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In total he spent 15 years in Rome, including seven working as an assistant to the church's high court, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — all during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

He takes seriously the bishop and priest's role of shepherd. His homilies, speeches, interviews and columns address substantive and often controversial topics. Those topics span the gamut — from supporting natural family planning as an alternative to artificial contraception and citing the World Health Organization's classification of hormonal contraceptives as Class 1 carcinogens, to applauding President Barack Obama for his executive order blocking deportation of undocumented immigrants who arrived as children.

"By virtue of his ordination, then, the priest is the one who lays down his life for his friends after the manner of Our Lord himself," Archbishop Cordileone said May 14, 2011, at the ordination Mass of four Oakland priests.

"He's just got a wonderful heart. He's a person of great conviction but also of great compassion. He has a dedication that is quite extraordinary," said George, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton and one of the authors of the Manhattan Declaration. The 4,700-word declaration speaks in defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and religious liberty and calls Christians to hold to their convictions in those three areas. Signed by more than a half-million people, it was originally formulated and signed by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders.

Ignacio De La Fuente, vice mayor of Oakland, talks with Bishop Salvatore Cordileone during the Aug. 17, 2009, rally for immigration and health care reform at St. Elizabeth Elementary School that drew 2,000 people.

"Those who really make an attempt to know him and befriend him will not be disappointed," said Rev. Jim Poulson, the San Diego diocesan priest with whom the new archbishop, as a teenager, discussed his call to the priesthood. "We are friends. We enjoy dining together and smoking a cigar."

While in Oakland, Bishop Cordileone encouraged parish education of families to reduce gang violence, and serves on the Oakland Police Foundation board. He is fluent in Spanish, and is interviewed regularly by Spanish-language TV network Univision and each year leads the 7.5-mile Oakland pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, said Brown, the diocesan communications director.

On an ecumenical level, Archbishop Cordileone worked closely with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the very successful East Bay Interfaith Blood Drive that this year expanded to most of Northern California, Brown said. He worked closely with various faiths for justice for workers while auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of San Diego and in 2008 he allied with evangelical Protestant and Mormon leaders to pass the pro-marriage Proposition 8.

As East Bay bishop, the San Francisco archbishop supported creation of the annual diocesan youth rally IGNITE, Bay Area Catholic Underground for young adults and Oakland's participation in the Northern California high school event NorCal On Fire Jam day at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, as well as the multidiocese Catholic College Fair, said Patti Collyer, youth and young adult ministry coordinator. "Thank you, God. He is really supportive of our young people," Collyer added.

The bishop emphasizes education in the seven sacraments for youth and adults, said Samuel Vasquez, Oakland coordinator of catechesis and adult faith formation. In 2010 he implemented dioceseanwide confirmation standards. Archbishop Cordileone built on the work of his predecessor, now-Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron by encouraging eucharistic adoration in every parish with perpetual adoration in at least one parish in each region of the diocese.

"Bishop Cordileone is not teaching anything revolutionary, all he is asking for is for the Gospel to be taught, but as we know, the Gospel is revolutionary. It can change the world. It has changed the world and it will continue to change the world if people live it authentically," Vasquez said.

Archbishop Cordileone is very attentive to the nuances of the liturgy as worship, and is one of a handful of American bishops who occasionally celebrates the pre-Vatican II form of the Latin Mass, known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. In July, he welcomed the Oakland diocese's a new order of contemplative religious women, an order of Carmelites (Story on Page 1).

During an interview on KQED public radio's Forum Aug. 8, the host asked the newly appointed archbishop if there were any issues where he would draw a line in the sand in "famously liberal" San Francisco.

Bishop Cordileone and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento walk in procession at the conclusion of an April 16 Mass with bishops from California, Nevada, Hawaii and Utah at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
Paul Haring/cns

Acknowledging that many Catholics reject some church teachings, Archbishop Cordileone said, "We just don't draw a line in the sand and stand there and wave our finger."

Rather, the church draws on 2,000 years of wisdom to teach Christ's message, he said. "It's trying to break through the stereotypes and the rhetoric to get people to think and ponder seriously. So, you are right we have a huge challenge in educating our own people … I think if we were more effective in doing that they would see the wisdom of our own teaching."

Then-Bishop Cordileone made the same point in a Nov. 10, 2010, talk to the Santa Clara Faith Formation Conference: "When people understand not just what the church teaches but why she teaches what she does, they respond with enthusiasm. There is a tremendous power for evangelization here."

Shortly after coming to Oakland, Bishop Cordileone attended a community organizing action for comprehensive immigration and health care reform at St. Elizabeth Elementary School that drew 2,000 people. At the Aug. 17, 2010, rally, Bishop Cordileone said that human dignity is a gift bestowed by God that "no one can take from us," and it is the bedrock of humane health care and immigration reform. This dignity is "innate and doesn't depend on one's legal status or financial resources," he said.

His early support and ongoing involvement were key components of the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution defining marriage as between "a man and a woman."

He is chair of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, sits on the U.S. bishops' Committee for Canonical Affairs and Church Governance and serves on the California bishops' Religious Liberties Committee. He is a member of the board of The Catholic University of America, the governing board of the International Theological Institute, and the Subcommission on the Liturgy for the Anglican Ordinariates.

"He's not afraid to go out there and witness to the community, even if not everyone shares those values," said Charles LiMandri, a married father of five children who has known Archbishop Cordileone since college and served as general counsel for the Proposition 8 campaign. "He represents those values in a way that is difficult to argue."

Archbishop Cordileone said he is grateful to the clergy, religious and lay faithful he has worked with in the Oakland diocese, and looks forward to continuing the work of the church in his new mission in San Francisco.

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