Wuerl to be installed today

Mass in Washington, D.C., will mark his debut as archbishop

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WASHINGTON -- Dressed in plain black clericals, Archbishop-designate Donald Wuerl entered the nearly empty Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception yesterday and walked to the sanctuary where he will be formally installed today as head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Martha Rial, Post-Gazette
Archbishop-elect Donald Wuerl, right, waves to visitors watching him rehearse with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, left, for his installation as Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Click photo for larger image.

He took his place alongside retiring Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and, with the basilica's chief liturgist acting as a stand-in for papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the three men bowed before the altar. The other two escorted the former bishop of Pittsburgh to the archbishop's throne, where he pantomimed receiving the crozier, or shepherd's staff, from the papal nuncio.

Yesterday's rehearsal was brief, while today's 2 p.m. Mass will last about two hours. The procession will include nine cardinals, 70 bishops, 250 priests -- about 50 of them from Pittsburgh -- 63 deacons and seven Eastern Orthodox Bishops and priests. The installation, like other large archdiocesan events, is being held in the 3,000-seat basilica because the 1,000-seat cathedral is too small for the expected crowd.

The incoming archbishop seemed relaxed, joking with the small cluster of media who showed up to case the rehearsal.

"The emotion is twofold," he said. "First, there is the excitement of assuming this responsibility. Then there is the realization that this is a very big responsibility. I keep saying to myself that being a bishop is the same, no matter where you are."

The immense basilica where he will be installed is the largest Catholic church in the Western Hemisphere, built between 1921 and 1959, with time out for the Great Depression and World War II. Its many side chapels show the Virgin Mary as she is depicted in a wide array of cultures, from Chinese to Lithuanian. The congregation for the installation is likewise expected to have an international flavor, with ambassadors from about 20 nations in attendance.

No one is expected from the White House, which would have entailed vast security measures. A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic from near Pittsburgh, said the senator won't attend because the Senate will be in session. But Western Pennsylvania is expected to be well-represented by Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll and at least two members of Congress.

The Mass will be carried live on cable channel PCNC, with streaming video on the Web sites of KDKA, WTAE and WPXI television stations.

Ann Rodgers can be reached at arodgers@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416.


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