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 Wednesday. 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 2006. 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 successor. 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 traditionalist. 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.
Washington Archbishop Wuerl Among 24 Catholics Named as Cardinals by Pope