Historic Moments

The Archdiocese of Washington was established in 1939 under the care of Archbishop Michael J. Curley. Since the establishment of our archdiocese there have been many historic moments in the life of our faith community. Learn more about our history in the timeline below!

1939 Pope Pius XII establishes the Archdiocese of Washington, which is led by Archbishop Michael J. Curley and includes only the city of Washington.
1947  The Archdiocese of Washington expands to include St. Mary’s, Charles, Calvert, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland.
1948  New Washington Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle begins working to integrate all the Catholic schools and parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington.
1959 The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – the largest Catholic church in North America – is dedicated in Washington, D.C.
1963 Archbishop O’Boyle offers the invocation at the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
1963 The Requiem Mass for John F. Kennedy, the United States’ first Catholic president, is held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
1973  Cardinal O’Boyle retires and is succeeded as archbishop of Washington by Archbishop William Baum.
1979 During a pastoral visit to Washington, Pope John Paul II celebrates a Mass for an estimated 175,000 people on the National Mall.
1980 Cleveland Bishop James Hickey is named the archbishop of Washington.
1986 The Archdiocese of Washington adopts the Child Protection Policy, one of the first in the nation.
2006  Pope Benedict XVI appoints Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh as the new archbishop of Washington.
2008  Pope Benedict’s XVI’s pastoral visit to Washington includes a Papal Mass for more than 50,000 at the new National’s Park.
2011  Cardinal Wuerl dedicates the Blessed John Paul II Seminary for the Archdiocese of Washington, a new home for seminarians studying at the nearby Catholic University of America.
2014 Cardinal Wuerl issues a pastoral letter, “Manifesting the Kingdom.”
2014 Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated a special Mass for the 75th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Washington at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on September 21, 2014.
2015 Cardinal Wuerl issues a pastoral letter, “Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge.”
2015  In September 2015, Pope Francis made an apostolic visit to the United States, which included stops in Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.
2017  Cardinal Wuerl issues the pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Racism Today.”
2017  The new Trinity Dome, the central and largest dome of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, is completed and dedicated.
2019  Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory is installed in May as the seventh archbishop of Washington.
2020 Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory is elevated to the College of Cardinals, becoming the first African American cardinal.
2021 The archdiocesan Laudato Si’ Action Plan is released, outlining a framework for working toward an integral ecology that is reflected in the lives of the faithful and in parishes and parish schools.