Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl greets Pope Benedict XVI in Clementine Hall at the Vatican during an 83rd birthday celebration for the pope this past April 16.
Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl greets Pope Benedict XVI in Clementine Hall at the Vatican during an 83rd birthday celebration for the pope this past April 16.
Pope Benedict XVI named Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, 69, as one of 24 new cardinals on Oct. 20. A consistory is planned for Nov. 20 in Rome, when the new cardinals will receive their red hats from the pope. As a member of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal-designate Wuerl will serve as an advisor to the pope and be eligible to vote in a papal election until his 80th birthday.

"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," Archbishop Wuerl said in a statement released that morning. "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."

The other American named to the College of Cardinals on Oct. 20 is Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, the head of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican's highest court and the former archbishop of St. Louis.

Cardinal-designate Wuerl, who was installed as the sixth archbishop of Washington in 2006, is known nationally for teaching the faith and for his efforts on behalf of Catholic education.

In 2008, he hosted the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Washington, which included a Papal Mass at Nationals Park attended by 50,000 people from around the Archdiocese of Washington and from across the country. In welcoming the Holy Father at the Mass, then-Archbishop Wuerl called it "a moment of spiritual renewal... as you bring to us Christ and his Gospel of love and hope."

In September, the archbishop issued a pastoral letter on the New Evangelization, Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision, in which he encouraged Catholics to deepen their own faith and then to share their faith with others.

"What we call the New Evangelization is all about retelling the story, this time awakening a sense of meeting Jesus," he wrote in the pastoral letter. "...We can help people we know, neighbors, co-workers, even, in some cases, family members, hear all over again, this time for the first time, the good news."
Cardinal-designate Wuerl, who will mark his 25th anniversary as a bishop in January, said in an interview that he sees the New Evangelization effort as "the defining pastoral initiative in my ministry as a bishop."

As archbishop of Washington, Cardinal-designate Wuerl is the spiritual leader of nearly 600,000 Catholics living in the nation's capital and in five surrounding Maryland counties. The Archdiocese of Washington includes 140 parishes and 98 Catholic schools and early learning centers, and about 100 Catholic agencies, including Catholic Charities, the largest non-governmental social service agency in the metropolitan area.

The day before being named a cardinal, Archbishop Wuerl announced the opening of a new seminary for the archdiocese in August 2011, near the Catholic University of America, to enable candidates for the priesthood to begin their studies here and be part of the local Catholic community from the beginning. The archdiocese currently has 67 men studying for the priesthood. The cardinal-designate has ordained 28 priests for the archdiocese in the past four years. "At a time when the teachings of the Catholic faith seem counter-cultural, we are seeing an increased interest in the priesthood, particularly among younger men who want to be a part of a new evangelization in society," the cardinal-designate said in a statement.

Also as archbishop, he convened a 2007 Convocation on Catholic Education, where participants agreed on the need for strategic planning in order to strengthen and sustain Catholic schools for the future. A consultative effort involving thousands of local Catholics led to the 2009 adoption of the archdiocese's new Policies for Catholic Schools, which emphasized Catholic identity, academic excellence, governance, and affordability and accessibility. As a result of the new policies, Catholics in every parish in the archdiocese are supporting Catholic education, alllowing the archdiocese to award $5 million in tuition assistance to families for the current school year.

In a 2008 pastoral letter, Catholic Education: Looking to the Future with Confidence, then-Archbishop Wuerl wrote that "Catholic education is the responsibility of the whole Church." He said that in Catholic schools and in parish religious education programs, "the threads of the encounter with Christ and his life-giving message are woven into the fabric of our human experience."

This fall, the archdiocese has introduced a new standards-based religion curriculum for elementary school grades, resulting from a 2006 Catechetical Convocation convened by the archbishop, where 2,000 religious educators began the effort to strengthen the teaching of the faith. The new curriculum sets standards for each grade level for children to know, understand and live the faith.

As archbishop of Washington, Cardinal-designate Wuerl has been a champion of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, and has joined community leaders in urging Congress to reauthorize the program which helps families in the city's poorest neighborhoods find better educational opportunities and a brighter future for their children.

The cardinal-designate is the author of numerous articles and books, including the best-selling catechisms The Teaching of Christ and The Catholic Way. In addition to his weekly column in the archdiocesan Catholic Standard newspaper, this fall he has begun sending monthly e-letters to local Catholics.

To encourage people to renew their faith, Cardinal-designate Wuerl has written several Lenten pastoral letters and under his leadership, the archdiocese launched the "Light is On for You" campaign to invite Catholics to return to the Sacrament of Confession and receive God's grace and healing.

Also as archbishop of Washington, Cardinal-designate Wuerl has championed the dignity of human life at all stages, and has celebrated an annual Youth Mass for Life at the Verizon Center for about 20,000 teens. He has spoken out against embryonic stem cell research and urged that the conscience rights of Catholic health care professionals be respected. He has also opposed efforts to redefine marriage, including the new District of Columbia law legalizing same-sex marriage.

A leader in community, ecumenical and interfaith activities, Cardinal-designate Wuerl regularly works with civic and business leaders on educational and community-service initiatives. He 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.

A Pittsburgh native, Cardinal-designate Wuerl received a graduate degree from the Catholic University of America, where he now serves as chancellor in his role as archbishop of Washington. He was ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1966, where he earned a graduate degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University while attending the North American College, and later earned a doctorate in theology from the University of St. Thomas. Pope John Paul II ordained him as a bishop in 1986 in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Then-Bishop Wuerl served as an auxiliary bishop in Seattle until 1988, when he was appointed as bishop of his home Diocese of Pittsburgh, which he led for 18 years until his appointment to Washington.

Cardinal-designate Wuerl becomes the fifth archbishop of Washington to be named a cardinal. Since the Archdiocese of Washington was separated from the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1947, every resident archbishop of Washington has achieved that rank. Washington's earlier cardinals, and the years they served as archbishop, include:

- Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle (1948-73), a champion of racial justice who integrated local Catholic schools and parishes and presided over a period of great growth in the archdiocese after World War II. He died in 1987.

- Cardinal William Baum (1973-80), a noted ecumenist and theologian who hosted Pope John Paul II's historic 1979 visit to Washington and later led the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education. Cardinal Baum, who is 83, is retired and lives in Washington.

- Cardinal James Hickey (1980-2000), who greatly expanded the archdiocese's service to the poor and vulnerable and founded two new elementary schools and 12 new parishes, many serving the archdiocese's diverse ethnic communities. He died in 2004.

- Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (2001-2006), the archbishop emeritus of Washington, turned 80 in July. In his retirement, he has continued supporting the humanitarian efforts of Catholic Relief Services around the world and has promoted interfaith dialogue in the Holy Land. As archbishop of Washington, he was known for his personal efforts to promote vocations, ordaining many priests and opening the archdiocese's Redemptoris Mater Mission Seminary. Under his leadership, the archdiocese launched the Forward in Faith capital campaign, to support future educational and social service outreach, vocations and parish needs.

The Archdiocese of Washington includes Southern Maryland, where the first Catholic Mass in the English-speaking colonies was celebrated in 1634. Some families trace their ancestry to Maryland's first colonists, and the archdiocese also includes newly arrived immigrants from nearly every continent. Each week, Masses are offered in nearly 25 languages in the archdiocese. The archdiocese's 50th anniversary celebrations in 1989 had the theme, "Mosaic of Faith," and highlighted the archdiocese as a diverse family of faith, united in Christ.

In 2009, Archbishop Wuerl participated in the ceremonial unlocking of the historic Brick Chapel at St. Mary's City, as a symbol of Maryland's role as the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States. On the same day when he was named a new cardinal, Cardinal-designate Wuerl was scheduled to deliver a lecture that evening at the University of St. Thomas in Houston on "Religious Faith's Role in Building a Good and Just Society."