Washington Archbishop Wuerl Among 24 Catholics Named as Cardinals by Pope

By Michelle Boorstein
     Oct. 20 (Washington Post) -- Pope Benedict XVI named
Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and 23 other Catholic
leaders from around the world to the elite status of cardinal on
     The highest-ranking officials in the Catholic Church after
the pope, cardinals are the ones who elect new pontiffs.
     Wuerl, 69, is a cautious educator who shares the pope's top
priority: eliminating ambiguity in an era of debate about
Catholicism's position on everything from health care to human
sexuality. He is considered a leading catechist, or teacher of
Catholic doctrine, and a diplomat on explosive social issues.
     Typically a staid, formal man who prefers to resolve issues
out of the public eye, Wuerl drew headlines last year when he
told Washington, D.C., officials that he might end spousal health
benefits for employees of Catholic Charities if the city
legalized same-sex marriage.
     When the law passed, Wuerl kept his promise, saying the
church had no choice to avoid recognizing same-sex couples as
married. Many Catholics were outraged at seeing one of the
region's largest non-profits deny spousal health coverage.
     Wuerl has led committees of U.S. bishops on education and on
doctrine and has been seen as headed for cardinalhood ever since
he was moved to Washington from his hometown of Pittsburgh in
     Traditionally, however, popes don't name two cardinals from
one diocese--and Washington already is home to Wuerl's
predecessor, the popular and charismatic Cardinal Theodore
McCarrick. Cardinals lose their right to vote for pope when they
turn 80, however, and McCarrick turned 80 a few months ago.
     With Wednesday's announcement, which came at Benedict's
weekly public appearance at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City,
Wuerl and the other candidates will begin hurriedly preparing to
be elevated to cardinals. Their elevation will take place in Rome
before hundreds of guests, marking the new cardinals' entrance
into the highest echelons of Vatican authority.
     "Once they get hit with that red, they go global,"
Philadelphia-based Vatican-watcher Rocco Palmo said of becoming a
cardinal and receiving the traditional red biretta, the square
cap with three ridges or peaks worn by cardinals and other
clerics. "You can be archbishop of a major city, but being made
cardinal is your coming-out globally."
     There are more than 5,000 bishops around the world.
     Benedict has called two previous consistories--a meeting of
cardinals that includes the elaborate, three-day installation
ceremony--since he became pope in 2005. He has picked nearly half
of the current cardinals. With more cardinals turning 80 next
year, Benedict soon will have personally chosen more than
two-thirds of those who will be charged with electing his
     In recent days, bloggers and Vatican-watchers had been
handicapping various bishops around the world and speculating
about the men who will likely select Benedict's successor.
     Even before a list was confirmed, experts expressed no
surprise at the names that were floated. Many of the bishops
Benedict has chosen to elevate are, like him, strongly
traditional people who see debates about hot-button subjects such
as female or married clergy or same-sex relationships as slippery
slopes to relativism. The pope lauds doctrinal expertise above
almost everything; even his top diplomat - Vatican Secretary of
State Tarcisio Bertone - is a theologian who had no previous
diplomatic expertise.
     However, the pope has urged clergy to be respectful and
engaged with other faiths, including Islam.
     "For this pope, the catchword will always be truth, but he
is very concerned that what we say as Catholics resonates with
people of good will," said Monsignor Kevin Irwin, dean of
religious studies and theology at the Catholic University of
America. "Dialogue, doctrinal clarity and respect."
     Wuerl is seen as a typical example of that type of engaged
conservative, experts said. He organized Benedict's 2008 visit to
Washington - and was credited with its perceived success.
     The visit included a Mass filled with multicultural music
and a blend of worship styles that some traditionalists objected
to but other worshippers loved.
     Wuerl is well-known for refusing to deny communion to
Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Wuerl says he
cannot know what is inside a person's heart when they share
private worship with God.
     Cardinals typically come from either prime leadership posts
at the Vatican or prominent dioceses. The Washington archdiocese,
which is made up of the District and the Maryland suburbs, is not
one of the country's largest in numbers, but it has stature
because it includes the U.S. capital and the international
diplomatic community. With Wednesday's announcement, five of
Washington's six archbishops have been named cardinal.
     Occasionally, announcements like the one made from Vatican
City on Wednesday include some surprises, or offer a glimpse of
which new parts of the country or world are seen as on the rise
by Catholic leaders. Because of Latino immigration, the American
South and West are increasingly seen as likely spots for future
cardinals. So are parts of the developing world, where
Catholicism is booming.
     Some looked at the intense gossip swirling earlier this week
and described it as over the top, especially for the serious
topic of church governance.
     "It's a lot of inside baseball, or a bit like fantasy
football," said the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a popular blogger and
     Now that the list is public, planning can begin for the
consistory. Among the events is a public ceremony in which the
men get their red birettas, followed by a Mass the next day where
they receive a gold ring.
     "For the rest of your life, by simply walking into a room
you suck the air out of it," Palmo said of cardinals.
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