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Manning Is Playing a Familiar Role in Papal Visit--in Background

September 15, 1987|CATHLEEN DECKER and JOHN DART | Times Staff Writers

Two years after he relinquished control of the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese, Cardinal Timothy Manning is occupying a familiar position during the two-day visit of Pope John Paul II to Los Angeles--the background.

Archbishop Roger R. Mahony, Manning's successor as head of the diocese, will serve as the formal host for the first visit of a sitting Pope to Los Angeles. But the low-key Manning will be at the Pope's side today and Wednesday--and in Northern California as well.

His quiet role is akin to his schedule since his retirement--busy and, except to selected audiences, largely invisible. Retirement, he said in a recent interview, has kept him on the run but happy.

"I don't have anything to worry about," he said, sitting in a borrowed office at the headquarters of The Tidings, the diocesan newspaper. "I do all the things I want to and have none of the problems."

Retired in 1985

Since his retirement in September, 1985, Manning has organized priestly retreats--he has several upcoming in Texas, Nebraska and Ireland--and has filled in at confirmations when the diocese's bishops are engaged. He hears confessions and celebrates Mass at his home parish, South Pasadena's Holy Family.

Two days a week, the 77-year-old Manning combs through correspondence in his Tidings office. Each Friday, he puts together his papers in the diocese's archives at the San Fernando Mission.

"I've been here 53 years--I'm part of the archives," he joked, his tanned face reddening. "When I die the archivist wants to put me in a glass case."

Not all of his activities are sedentary--last month, he hopped onto a Navy jet and flew to the aircraft carrier Enterprise, on maneuvers 90 miles off the coast of San Diego, where he made a 24-hour pastoral visit before catapulting back to shore.

Manning's stewardship of the diocese was not quite so dramatic. He took over the sprawling Los Angeles diocese in 1970; for the next 15 years it maintained a low national profile, even while it grew into the most populous in the nation. The soft-spoken Manning was closer to a spiritual counselor than a tough administrator, observers said.

Restrained Tenure

In retrospect, his tenure seems even more restrained, given the dramatic moves of Mahony, who has involved himself in contemporary issues such as pornography, nuclear deterrence and the rights of illegal aliens.

For Manning, the Pope's visit to Los Angeles will mark a reunion with a longtime associate. In 1983, the pontiff appointed Manning as one of three co-chairmen for that year's Synod of Bishops at the Vatican. One year later, the Los Angeles cardinal accompanied John Paul on his trip to Korea, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Thailand.

The Pope's home during his two-day visit likewise is an old friend for Manning. It was in St. Vibiana's Cathedral, on June 16, 1934, that Timothy Manning, the blacksmith's son from Ballingeary, Ireland, was ordained a priest. His theological life revolves around the 111-year-old church, Manning's home when he ran the diocese.

"I was ordained a priest and said my first Mass there," Manning said, his slight accent betraying his roots. "I was made a bishop and ordained six bishops there. I will be buried from there. To me, it has that close attachment. That attachment has not broken."

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