SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, considered a longshot to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, will be the principal commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame in May.
As head of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dolan is one of the best-known religious figures in the United States.
"He is a man of great intelligence and personal warmth, and a dedicated shepherd of the church," said the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president. "We were pleased to have him here in 2011 to give the inaugural lecture for the Notre Dame Project on Human Dignity, and we are grateful that he has accepted our invitation to join us in celebrating the achievements of our students and to provide them with words of wisdom as they set out into the world."
Jenkins was criticized for inviting President Barack Obama to give the commencement speech in 2009 because his policies on stem cell research and abortion run counter to Catholic teaching. Obama's appearance, including being awarded an honorary degree, sparked protests and led dozens of bishops questioned Jenkins' judgment.
NBC News anchor Brian Williams was the main speaker in 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave the speech in 2011 and alumna Haley Scott DeMaria, who was severely injured when a bus carrying the Notre Dame women's swim team crashed on the Indiana Toll Road in 1992, spoke last year.
The 63-year-old Dolan was installed as archbishop of New York in 2009 after serving as archbishop of Milwaukee. He was elevated to cardinal a year ago. He gave a speech on spreading the faith that was highly praised and was mentioned in some Italian media as someone having the qualities of a future pope. He also gave benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
Dolan will be part of the College of Cardinals meeting soon to elect a new pope.
Dolan also will receive an honorary degree from Notre Dame at the May 19 commencement.