A New Sheriff's in Town
Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI was elected by the College of Cardinals, the Archbishop of Washington, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, sent his letter of retirement to the Vatican. This is something that bishops are required to do when they turn 75, and the Pope accepted the resignation and soon nominated a successor. The Bishop of Pittsburgh, Donald W. Wuerl, was appointed to be the new leader of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Washington last month. Yesterday, the new archbishop was officially installed in that office during a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson, Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, and Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy were in attendance, and the Post covered it in some detail, even noting that Sen. Kerry received communion.
I had a bird's eye view of the event, because I was singing with the choir of the National Shrine yesterday for this marathon service. The pictures here were taken from the upper church's east chancel gallery, where the Shrine Choir joined with members of the choir of St. Matthew's Cathedral, which is the archbishop's official episcopal seat, and a brass ensemble. As you can see in the top picture, the ceremony was witnessed by a large portion of the American Catholic hierarchy, including several but not all of the American cardinals, a gaggle of bishops and archbishops, and even some leaders from the Orthodox community. If you are not Catholic (and even if you are), this event may not mean anything to you. However, past archbishops of Washington have been influential figures, both with the political leadership of the city and that of the federal government. Also, they have great hats.
Cardinal McCarrick was, from the moment of his appointment in 2001, one of the most media-savvy yet plain-spoken bishops in the American church. He once showed up at a Mass with a film crew tailing him in the sacristy, to make a documentary about his work in Washington. He traveled often, always concerned about people around the world. (A friend of mine joked that his official episcopal portrait should have shown him waving from an airplane window.) Modeling himself on Pope John Paul II, he worked hard at mastering other languages, especially Spanish, which he used to reach out notably to Washington's Hispanic community. There was rarely a Mass he celebrated during which he did not give a "second homily," a short address in Spanish before the final blessing. Is It a coincidence that the Latin Mass at the National Shrine was replaced with a Spanish Mass during his tenure? (Apparently, he will be devoting part of his retirement to learning Arabic.) There is no telling yet how our new archbishop will be different. At his installation Mass, there were prayers spoken in several different languages, but no second homily in Spanish, although he does speak some Spanish. All signs seem to indicate that Wuerl is a more reserved and less chummy pastor than McCarrick was.
Archbishop Wuerl will celebrate the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral this Sunday. On Monday, he will go to Rome to receive his archiepiscopal pallium, the band of office worn around the neck and shoulders.