The word

gospel

comes from the old English for "good news," and when it's the story of a Delaware County boy who goes to Rome, becomes a cardinal and gets a victory lap on the Main Line, you can book it.

"It's sometimes nice to have good news to report," said newly minted Cardinal John Patrick Foley, a longtime priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, chatting with reporters yesterday at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Foley from archbishop to cardinal in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. This week, Foley is bringing the celebration back to Philly.

"I love Philadelphia and I still consider Philadelphia to be home," said Foley, 72, who has lived in Rome since 1984. He said he's impressed by how places like Fishtown, his father's former stomping grounds, are "now very trendy and fashionable."

Tomorrow night, he will celebrate Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul. Live video will be available on the archdiocese Web site, www.archphila. org.

Foley is a humble man, but the former editor of the Catholic Standard & Times admitted yesterday to getting a kick out of the recent articles chronicling his rise from Sharon Hill, Delaware County, to the Vatican.

"It's like being canonized without the inconvenience of dying," he said from his armchair at the seminary in Wynnewood, where he once taught metaphysics and ethics to aspiring priests.

"Thank you very much for your interest, for your support, for your kindness. It's more than I deserve, but I appreciate it," said Foley, former press liaison for Pope John Paul II. "Now, do you have any questions to which I can reply immediately, 'No comment?' "

For nearly 45 minutes, the cardinal fielded mostly softball questions, mixed in with a few hardballs, such as whether he would ever support women in the priesthood. He said he wouldn't, because it is "clearly not the will of Christ."

On the chances of his being named pope someday, he said it is "not even within the realm of possibility - if the cardinals know what they're doing."

And, for the record, it was on Christmas Day in 1952, Foley's senior year at St. Joe's Prep, when he decided to become a priest.

"I went back to the parish church and I knelt in front of the Christmas crib scene there, and I said, 'Lord, you've given me everything I have - my life, my family, my faith, my wonderful education - and I want to give it all back to you,' " he said.

"And that's when I decided to enter the seminary." *