The Las Vegas Sun recently featured the 18th annual American Cardinals Dinner which was held in Las Vegas on April 27. The story quoted CUA president Very Rev. David M. O'Connell and included two photos of the event. (Click here to see a photo of the cardinals. Click here to see a photo of the Mass.) See the story below.

Vegas has arrived, so have the cardinals

From: Las Vegas Sun Date: April 28, 2007 Author: Christina Littlefield Any question about the ascendancy of Las Vegas from Sin City to upper - crust respectability was further answered Friday night.

Five U.S. Roman Catholic cardinals in full regalia showed up on the Strip to raise scholarship money for The Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Wonder how Leno or Letterman will play with this one.

The cardinals, who rank below the pope as the church's most distinguished clergy, had not before visited Nevada as a group. The university's annual fundraiser, held this year at the Four Seasons, was only the third in 18 years to be hosted by a diocese west of Chicago.

"In a sense, it is counter intuitive to have the dinner in this place with gambling and other extravagances, but it gives the people of Las Vegas a chance to meet the cardinals," said the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, president of the Catholic University of America. "In truth, the idea was very well received and not one person raised the question or objected" to having it in Las Vegas.

O'Connell selected Las Vegas because the dinner had not previously been held in the Southwest and because Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of the Diocese of Las Vegas is a member of the university's Board of Trustees.

The dinner, and a public Mass that was celebrated by the cardinals Friday afternoon at the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer, were designed to highlight the role of Catholic education in America and Catholic University's emphasis on the intellectual tradition of the church and Catholic values, organizers said.

Several hundred people - some in formal evening wear appropriate for the night's swank conclusion - attended the Mass.

Opportunities to rub shoulders with cardinals - the men who elect the pope - are rare. The university uses such occasions to tap affluent and influential Catholics for support of higher education.

"How many diocese have the opportunity to host all of the American cardinals at one event in one time?" O'Connell said. "It just doesn't happen. As far as I know this is the only event of its kind."

Tickets to the dinner cost $1,000. About 500 attended the affair, which was expected to raise about $1 million.

Even individually, cardinals have rarely visited Las Vegas.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, has visited Las Vegas twice - for the ceremony that established Las Vegas as its own diocese in 1996 and for Pepe's ordination as bishop in 2001.

Cardinal Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, also attended Pepe's ordination.

Five of the 13 U.S. cardinals were in town Friday: Mahony; Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit; Edward Egan, archbishop of New York; Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia ; and Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston.

The church estimates that nearly one-third of the Las Vegas Valley's population is Roman Catholic, and about 100,000 attend Mass on a weekly basis. Unlike many East Coast dioceses, the Catholic church in Las Vegas is challenged by growth, struggling to find enough priests and even seats in the pews to serve all congregants. Local priests said they were honored to host the cardinals.

"We also hope they will leave here with a taste of the vibrancy of the faith of our people, not to mention the hospitality that Las Vegas is known for throughout the world," said Rev. Bob Stoeckig, of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Catholic Church in West Las Vegas.