Pope Elevates Archbishop Wuerl to College of Cardinals

November 20, 2010

Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, was among 24 new Cardinals created today by Pope Benedict XVI at a consistory at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. About 400 people, mostly from the Washington, DC and Pittsburgh areas are in Rome, and attended today’s consistory. They will also attend receptions at the North American College and the Vatican today, as well as the Papal Mass tomorrow.

At today’s ceremony, Cardinal Wuerl was given his zucchetto (skullcap) and biretta (traditional, three edge trimmed hat) by the Pope. The Holy Father first placed the scarlet red zucchetto on the Cardinal’s head, then the biretta, and said, “Receive this red hat as a sign of the dignity of the office of a Cardinal, signifying that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”

The Holy Father also assigned Cardinal Wuerl a Church of Rome, or a titular church. Originally, the cardinals were parish priests and deacons of Rome and bishops of the suburban dioceses. This tradition had been symbolically preserved by appointing the cardinals as titular parish priests and deacons of Roman churches. Cardinal Wuerl’s titular church is Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli). Saint Peter in Chains is a minor basilica in central Rome, not far from the Coliseum. The church was founded in the 5th century to house the chains that bound St. Peter. The chains are preserved in a glass case at the altar. The church also houses one of the world’s most famous sculptures: Michelangelo’s Moses. Cardinal Pio Laghi, who served as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, was the titular Cardinal of the church until his death in 2009. As part of the scheduled pilgrimage, pilgrims attended Mass at St. Peter in Chains on Wednesday, November 17. Photos of the Mass are posted on the Archdiocese of Washington’s facebook page at www.facebook.com/adw.org.

A Mass with the Pope will be held tomorrow, Sunday, November 21. During the Papal Mass, Pope Benedict XVI will give each new Cardinal a ring, symbolizing the Cardinal’s bond to the Holy Father and Universal Church. For Cardinal Wuerl, this will replace the one he has worn for the past 25 years. That ring was given to him by Cardinal John Wright, a former bishop of Pittsburgh and Vatican official for whom Cardinal Wuerl worked as a young priest. Pope Paul VI had given Cardinal Wright the ring at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

Cardinal Wuerl will serve as an advisor to the Pope and will be eligible to vote in a Papal election until his 80th birthday. More information about cardinals is online at www.adw.org. The consistory will bring the total number of Cardinals to 203 worldwide, out of a Church of more than one billion Catholics.

On Monday, November 22, Cardinal Wuerl will celebrate Mass of Thanksgiving at the Altar of the Chair at St. Peter’s Basilica for those on the consistory pilgrimage. That is the altar where he was ordained a priest 44 years ago. Cardinal Wuerl was ordained a bishop in the basilica (at a different altar) nearly 25 years ago.

Cardinal Wuerl returns to Washington on Tuesday, November 23.

On Sunday, November 28 at noon, thousands of parishioners will join Cardinal Wuerl for his first Mass in Washington as a Cardinal at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass is open to the public and a reception will follow the Mass.

Cardinal Wuerl is the fifth Archbishop of Washington since the archdiocese was founded in 1939 to have received this honor. The others were Cardinals Patrick A. O’Boyle, William W. Baum, James A. Hickey and Theodore E. McCarrick.

Cardinal Wuerl became the leader of the Archdiocese of Washington on June 22, 2006 after 18 years as the Bishop of Pittsburgh. A leader in community, ecumenical and interfaith activities, he regularly works with civic and business leaders on educational and community-service initiatives. He is the author of several books and numerous articles on the Catholic faith and has headed numerous committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, including Education, Evangelization and Catechesis. He currently is the chair of the Committee on Doctrine and recently was named by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Vatican’s delegate for Anglican parishes in the United States who are seeking unification with the Roman Catholic Church.

In April 2008, he hosted Pope Benedict XVI during the Holy Father’s visit to Washington, DC. In September 2010, he released a pastoral letter calling upon Catholics to renew their faith as part of a New Evangelization. Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision is online at www.adw.org. Earlier this week, he announced the Archdiocese will open a new seminary in fall 2011 due to an increase in the number of seminarians in college and pre-theology studies.

Cardinal Wuerl is chancellor of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, chairman of the board of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and past chairman of the National Catholic Educational Association and the National Catholic Bioethics Center. A native of Pittsburgh, he received graduate degrees from The Catholic University of America, Gregorian University in Rome, Italy and the University of St. Thomas in Rome, where he received a doctorate in theology in 1974. Ordained to the priesthood in 1966, he was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1986 and will celebrate his 25th anniversary as a bishop in January 2011.

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