Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Archbishop Wuerl Appointed Archbishop of Washington

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Donald W. Wuerl to succeed Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick as archbishop of Washington.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, made the announcement on Tuesday, May 16, 2006.

Pope Benedict accepted the retirement of Cardinal McCarrick who had served in Washington since his appointment on November 21, 2000.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl will continue to serve as bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh until his installation as archbishop of Washington on June 22, 2006.

“The decision of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to transfer me to the Archdiocese of Washington,” Archbishop-designate Wuerl said, “is one I embrace in the context of faith in God’s providential care. Although I am greatly aware of my own limitations, I find strength in the Pope’s trust in me and also in the prayerful support I have always found from the Catholic faithful I have attempted to serve here in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.”

Cardinal McCarrick described Archbishop-designate Wuerl as “a wonderful friend to me over so many years and I have watched with delight and deep respect – and sometimes with more than a little envy – the great things that the Church of Pittsburgh has accomplished under his leadership. I truly cannot think of a better choice for Washington than Bishop Wuerl.”

Archbishop-designate Wuerl has been bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for 18 years and will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his ordination as a priest later this year.

Born in Pittsburgh on November 12, 1940, the second of four children, Donald Wuerl attended St. Mary of the Mount School in Mount Washington. He went on to the Athenaeum of Ohio for two years before winning the prestigious Basselin Scholarship to study at the Catholic University of America.

He received graduate degrees from Catholic University and the Gregorian University in Rome. He received his doctorate in theology from the University of Saint Thomas in Rome in 1974.

He was ordained to the priesthood on December 17, 1966 and ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II on January 6, 1986, in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome.

After serving in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Archbishop-designate Wuerl was installed as the 11th bishop of Pittsburgh on February 12, 1988.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl became known early as the “education bishop” as he focused his ministry in Pittsburgh on educating young people in the faith and to spiritual renewal throughout the diocese.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl came to the Diocese of Pittsburgh as co-author of the best-selling adult catechism, “The Teaching of Christ.” Now in its 30th year of publication and fifth edition, the book has been translated into more than 10 languages and is used throughout the world.

His most recent book, “The Catholic Way,” was published by Doubleday in September 2001. “The Catholic Way” is a popular presentation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl has hosted the award-winning “The Teaching of Christ” television program for 17 years. The weekly catechetical program applies the Catholic faith to contemporary life.

Catholic education flourished under Archbishop-designate Wuerl’s leadership in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Despite aging demographics in the area and declining population, more than 80,000 students are enrolled in Catholic schools and religious education programs throughout the diocese.

In 1990 the diocese was the first in the nation to have all of its schools accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

In 1998, Archbishop-designate Wuerl established the Diocesan Academic Council, including representatives of the diocese’s three Catholic institutions of higher education – Duquesne University, LaRoche College and Carlow University – to implement the principles of Ex corde Ecclesiae.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl has been in the forefront of finding new and innovative ways to finance Catholic education, making it affordable and accessible to all. In 1994, the financial policies for Catholic schools in the Diocese were revitalized. The Bishop’s Education Fund was founded in 1995 for parents of Catholic school students and has distributed millions of dollars in tuition assistance.

The Extra Mile Foundation, founded in 1990, sustains parochial schools in the inner city for the education of urban at-risk youth.

The diocese’s Department for Persons with Disabilities has developed an award-winning curriculum used nationwide and the Saint Anthony Programs has pioneered a model of inclusive education for persons with mental retardation and autism from kindergarten through college – the only program of its kind in the nation.

As part of parish spiritual renewal, Archbishop-designate Wuerl conducted countless visits to the 214 parishes across the six counties of the diocese. He visited on average 100 parishes each year for pastor installations, visitations, confirmations and other pastoral opportunities.

Less than a year after his installation, Archbishop-designate Wuerl issued his first pastoral letter, “Thy Kingdom Come: New Beginnings in a Long Walk Together.”

In this pastoral letter critical to shaping the future of the Catholic Church of Pittsburgh, Archbishop-designate Wuerl addressed the economic difficulties the diocese faced in its parishes and schools, the looming shortage of personnel and the impact of a declining and aging area population.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl called for a massive diocesan-wide consultation process to determine future directions in parish life. By January 1990, Parishes throughout the diocese began “town hall” meetings in the self-study project, with reports forwarded on to the diocese.

In its first phase, “The Parish Reorganization and Revitalization Project” received recommendations on reorganization from 64 parishes and in July 1992 Archbishop-designate Wuerl announced the first phase of 11 new parishes formed.

By March 1994 The Revitalization and Reorganization Project entered its final phase paving the way, Archbishop-designate Wuerl explained, to “give full attention to spiritual renewal throughout the diocese [which] has always been the primary goal of the reorganization process.”

The Revitalization and Reorganization Process, undertaken at a time when Southwestern Pennsylvania was reeling from the economic and demographic fallout of the decline in the steel industry, established a solid foundation for parish life in the diocese for decades to come.

Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue was also a hallmark of the nearly two decades of Archbishop-designate Wuerl’s ministry in Pittsburgh.

Under Archbishop-designate Wuerl’s direction, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is a key member of the Christian Associates, a 10 countywide, long-standing ecumenical organization.

The Christian Leaders Fellowship was initiated by Archbishop-designate Wuerl and other Christian leaders of the Pittsburgh area to coordinate ecumenical activities. Archbishop-designate Wuerl was strongly involved in The Religious Leadership Forum, which engages Jewish, Christian and Muslim leadership in interfaith dialogue.

In 1996, Archbishop-designate Wuerl and the Episcopal and Lutheran Bishop signed, “Call to Covenant,” a historic pact of cooperation among their members. In October 1998, a joint Catholic-Lutheran vesper service was held to celebrate the two faiths’ joint declaration on the doctrine of justification.

In December 1999, Archbishop-designate Wuerl presided at a prayer service and blessing in downtown Pittsburgh for the world’s only replica of the Vatican crèche. Sponsored by the Christian Leaders Fellowship, the life-sized crèche is now a traditional part of Pittsburgh’s Christmas celebration.

In January 2004 Archbishop-designate Wuerl joined Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders at a performance of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Heinz Hall, honoring the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s papacy. Archbishop-designate Wuerl and representatives of the ecumenical and interfaith community also went on to attend the symphony performance before the Holy Father at the Vatican on January 17.

In February 1998 Archbishop-designate Wuerl issued guidelines and a timetable for the 19th synod of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Mass at St. Paul Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday in May, 1999 formally opens the synod, which concluded the following June with strategic priorities to guide the diocese in the new millennium.

In his nearly two decades in Pittsburgh, Archbishop-designate Wuerl had extensive involvement in the wider community. He provided leadership in youth crime prevention and was actively involved with the United Way and the Urban League. His civic involvement extended to many local organizations, particularly in the areas of race relations, poverty and pro-life concerns.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl had a strong working relationship with local print and electronic media, including hosting an annual breakfast meeting with media for World Communications Day.

Pastoral concern for those in the diocese has always been an essential part of Archbishop-designate Wuerl’s ministry. With the extensive work of Catholic Charities and social service organizations throughout the diocese, over 90,000 people are served each year by Church-related ministries.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl has reached out personally in his annual Holy Thursday Lord’s Supper Mass that has been celebrated in prisons, nursing homes and numerous facilities for persons with specials needs.

Whether in the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Ivan locally, to the national disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the international tragedy of the tsunami that struck in December 2004, Archbishop-designate Wuerl began fundraising efforts that contributed millions to those in need locally, national and internationally.

In launching a major diocesan-wide effort, Archbishop-designate Wuerl issued the pastoral letter “Envisioning Ministry for the Future,” in September 2004. This began a process of discernment and action on the parish and diocesan level on ways to cope with the growing shortage of priests. Every deanery, as well as parishes throughout the diocese, has been engaged in joint study and consultation in providing ministry in a future with less priests available to minister.

As part of Envisioning Ministry and in response to the clergy shortage, in April of this year it was announced that the diocese will soon begin to utilize parish life collaborators, deacons and trained professional laity designated by the diocesan bishop with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl serves on numerous national and international bodies, is chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops editorial oversight board for the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, chair of the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and vice president of the executive board of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center with extensive involvement in the Center's Intercultural Forum.

He has chaired the USCCB's Committee on Education, is past chairman of the board of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic University of America.

He was recently named chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

He is also Distinguished Service Professor at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, where he teaches a course on the foundations of Catholic faith. Archbishop-designate Wuerl was honored year by the Catholic Campus Ministry Association for his support and involvement in campus ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and on the national level where he served as the inaugural chairman of the campus ministry subcommittee of the USCCB.

Archbishop-designate Wuerl was one of four U.S. bishops named as a delegate to the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that met at the Vatican October 2 to 23, 2005. At the Synod Archbishop-designate Wuerl was elected a recording secretary and was one of 12 members of the hierarchy worldwide to serve on the post-synodal council.

Cardinal McCarrick noted the “extraordinary things (Archbishop-designate Wuerl) has accomplished in his service of the Church, not just in his own Diocese of Pittsburgh, but nationally and, indeed, internationally.”

“As I begin to conclude my ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh,” Archbishop-designate Wuerl said, “I am sincerely grateful to God for the opportunity to have served in this portion of his vineyard and to have worked together with so many of the clergy, religious and lay faithful in manifesting the Kingdom here in our corner of the world.”

Read Archbishop- Designate Wuerl's Statement here
Read Cardinal McCarrick's Statement here

Photo: Diocese of Pittsburgh

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