Archbishop Timothy Dolan and 21 others elevated to cardinal

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ROME (CNN) -- New York’s Catholic leader and the former Archbishop of Milwaukee is now a cardinal. Timothy Dolan was elevated along with 21 other archbishops in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

Dolan spent seven years as Milwaukee's Archbishop.  He left in 2009 to become the Archbishop of New York.   Milwaukee's Catholic community celebrated Dolan's elevation. Dolan is remembered as a larger-than-life personality who was approachable.

"He's nice to people," said Robert Weronka, a Milwaukee Catholic attending mass at Our Lady of Divine Providence.  "He smiles at people and he doesn't look down on them. You're supposed to have humility and that's what he had."

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki , who was in Rome for the ceremony, said while many people are aware of Dolan's exuberant personality, his less public side is just as important in his ministry  "What is not known is his pastor's heart," Listecki said.  "He went out and did things individually for people. He would go out and anoint an individual or visit some of the elderly who were associated with family members. You'd hear that he'd remember people's likes or dislikes, and he'd be traveling and bring back something for them," Listecki said.

The Vatican named the new cardinals last month, but they were officially inducted by the pontiff in a special ceremony inside Vatican City.

Among those to be elevated to the College of Cardinals are New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, cementing his standing as the top Catholic in the United States, and Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of Baltimore.

Others include Archbishop Thomas Collins, from Toronto, as well as the Bishop of Hong Kong, John Tong Hon, and Major Archbishop George Alencherry from India.

Senior clerics from Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Romania and Brazil were also represented, as well as several from Italy.

The College of Cardinals was established in 1150. Its main role is to advise the current Pope and pick his successor.

"This is the most exclusive club in the Catholic Church," said John Allen, CNN's Vatican analyst. "In many cases, you also become, at least informally, a candidate to be the next pope, because the next pope will almost certainly come from the roughly 120 cardinals under the age of 80."

Once a cardinal reaches 80, he is no longer able to participate in the election of the pope or enter the secret conclave where cardinals gather when the time comes to select the next pope, typically upon the prior pope's death.

The new cardinals each professed their faith and swore an oath of obedience to Pope Benedict and his successors during Saturday's ceremony, called the Consistory, at the Vatican.

They then walked one by one to the pontiff and knelt in front of him to receive the traditional red hat, or "beretta," and gold ring, and a document with the name of the cardinal's titular church in Rome.

In his address, Benedict said that in joining the College of Cardinals, the clerics would "be united with new and stronger bonds not only to the Roman Pontiff but also to the entire community of the faithful spread throughout the world."

Emphasizing the importance of service over self-interest, the pontiff said the red of the cardinals' hats was symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice they would make if required.

"The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the beretta and as indicated by the color of their robes," he said.

Pope Benedict also announced seven new saints, including the first Native American saint, a 17th-Century Mohawk woman called Kateri, or Catherine, Tekakwitha, who was a Catholic convert.

Existing members of the College of Cardinals and the new cardinals-elect came together for a day of prayer and reflection Friday, in preparation for the ceremony, according to the Holy See Press Office.

Dolan addressed the gathering on the subject of evangelization, saying there was a need to challenge a growing secularization of society.

Dolan has written in his blog about the journey to Rome. CLICK HERE to read it.

CLICK HERE to view more stories about Timothy Dolan.