Early Wednesday morning, after years of rumors that it would happen, the Archdiocese of Washington announced that Pope Benedict XVI will elevate Wuerl to Cardinal. That means he will serve as an advisor to the pope and will be eligible to vote in a papal election until his 80th birthday.
The work of this self-described "shepherd" did not pause the morning he learned he will "wear the red hat." Cardinal-designate Wuerl was scheduled to celebrate an 8 a.m. mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, 1725 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. Then, Wuerl will fly to Houston, Texas, to deliver the keynote address for the Center for Faith and Culture at the University of Saint Thomas. "Building a Good and Just Society" is the topic.
Ordained in 1966, Wuerl, 69, was ordained in 1966. He is the fifth Archbishop of Washington to receive the honor since the Archdiocese was founded in 1939.
“This truly is an honor for the Archdiocese of Washington, the Church in the nation’s capital, and for all of the clergy, religious and parishioners of this local Church who every day live out their faith in commitment and deep love for Christ," Cardinal-designate Wuerl said in a statement. "I am humbled by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s trust in me as shepherd of this flock and pledge to him my renewed fidelity, affection and loyalty.”
Cardinal-designate Wuerl served as Bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years before he came to Washington in 2006.
According to the Archdiocese of Washington, Wuerl is viewed as a leader in community, ecumenical and interfaith activities. He is known as a leading teacher of the Catholic doctrine, having written several books and articles on the Catholic faith. He has served as the head of many committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Archdiocese said he was recently "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."
Wuerl is considered a diplomat on tough social issues. In the past, he has refused to deny communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, saying he won't judge the souls of Catholics.
Two years ago, then-Archbishop Wuerl hosted the pope during a visit to Washington. Last month, he wrote a 28-page pastoral letter titled Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision (www.adw.org), calling upon Catholics to renew their faith and reach those who have fallen out of faith. An overview of the letter indicates an attempt to answer a modern dilemma facing the church. "All of us know someone -- a friend, family member, colleague or neighbor -- who used to be a practicing Catholic, but isn’t any more. For some who initially heard the incredible proclamation of Christ alive in the Church, the message has become stale. The promises seem empty or unconnected to their busy lives today. So, what is our response?"
This week, Wuerl announced the creation of a new seminary in Washington in 2011.
The Pope will elevate Wuerl to Cardinal at the Vatican on November 20th.