WASHINGTON (CNS) — From people in the pews to top Church leaders, Catholics across the United States offered words of congratulations and thanksgiving for the two Americans named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 20.
Comments emerged throughout the day as word of the announcement spread from diocese to diocese and reached people who worked at various times with Cardinal-designate Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Vatican’s highest tribunal, the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, and Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington.
Cardinal Edward M. Egan, retired archbishop of New York, offered his congratulations to both Americans in personal messages.
He said in a statement that he has known both men for many years and praised them for their dedication to the priesthood and the work of the Church. In particular, he noted his close working relationship with Cardinal-designate Burke during his time with the Roman Rota, the Church’s central appeals court.
Cardinal-designate Wuerl “has proved to be a most zealous” priest, Cardinal Egan said. He described Cardinal-designate Burke as a “brilliant canonist and a most devoted prefect of the Church’s highest tribunal.”
News of Cardinal-designate Wuerl’s appointment was met with joy at The Catholic University of America, where he studied and obtained graduate degrees in the early 1960s. He maintains closes ties to the university today.
In a statement, the university’s president, John H. Garvey, described Cardinal-designate Wuerl as a “highly articulate teacher of the word of Jesus Christ.”
“We have benefited greatly from his wisdom and his leadership,” Garvey said, pointing to Cardinal-designate Wuerl’s involvement as university chancellor since 2006 and the time he has served on the institution’s board of trustees.
Garvey also offered congratulations to Cardinal-designate Burke.
In Pittsburgh, Bishop David A. Zubik said the “incredible gifts” of Cardinal-designate Wuerl, his predecessor, are well-known. The Church has “benefitted enormously by his presence” and he “remains dear to our hearts,” the bishop added.
He said the prelate “exemplified incredible pastoral leadership” during his years in Pittsburgh and was known as the “education bishop” for his “untiring support for Catholic education,” including developing a unique inclusive education model for special-needs children.
Bishop Zubik praised Cardinal-designate Wuerl’s interfaith efforts as well as the steps he took when he was in Pittsburgh to address the issue of clergy sex abuse before it took “center stage nationwide.”
In St. Louis, where Cardinal-designate Burke served as archbishop for four years before his Vatican appointment, many people were pleased to hear the news.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said in a statement the Church in St. Louis was “very proud” of the new cardinal-designate.
“Cardinal-designate Burke’s faithfulness and service to the Church have served the people of St. Louis well, and we proudly extend to him our congratulations, best wishes, and promise of prayerful support,” Archbishop Carlson said.
People who worked with Cardinal-designate Burke in St. Louis and a relative were pleased by the news as well.
The cardinal-designate’s sister, Mary Drexler, said she and her husband had seen a report on the Internet that the naming was a possibility, so they watched the papal audience on EWTN and heard the pope call out his name. “We’re so proud of him. It’s almost overwhelming,” she told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.
Her brother is attending the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East and doing his regular work, so he has been busy from early morning to late at night, Drexler said.
Father Kevin Schroeder, associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville, Mo., was ordained by Cardinal-designate Burke and worked with him during his first years as a priest. “He was such a great example of a priest and bishop, and it’s great to see the Holy Father acknowledge that,” he said.
Niall Gannon, a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, worked with the cardinal-designate on the Annual Catholic Appeal. “I felt so blessed to be one of his advisers for the four years he was here,” he said. “He deepened my faith and helped remind all of us that our role as Christians is deeper than ourselves.”
Gannon said Cardinal-designate Burke was “a champion for the workhorses for the church,” including teachers, priests, religious, laypeople and especially those such as single mothers who send their children to Catholic schools.
After celebrating Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington and meeting the press early Oct. 20, Cardinal-designate Wuerl traveled to Houston, where he was scheduled to speak on “Religious Faith’s Role in Building a Good and Just Society” at the University of St. Thomas.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston recalled being ordained a priest for the Pittsburgh Diocese, where Cardinal-designate Wuerl was formerly the bishop. The two worked together on various tasks in Pittsburgh before Cardinal DiNardo was ordained a bishop for the Diocese of Sioux City and then the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
“Archbishop Wuerl was my bishop in Pittsburgh for 18 years and I know him to be a deeply faith-filled man and a superb catechist,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “His pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington has been excellent. He has a wonderful gift for synthesizing various dimensions of the faith. I am delighted that the Holy Father has elevated him to the College of Cardinals.”
Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac River from Washington, was among those to offer words of congratulations to both new cardinals.
He said in a statement the appointment of Cardinal-designate Wuerl demonstrates “the admiration and esteem in which the new cardinal is held by our Holy Father and by all of us who have witnessed firsthand the many gifts of mind and heart with which he is endowed and which he has placed so generously and assiduously at the service of the church dear to him and to all of us.”
The bishop recalled meeting Cardinal-designate Wuerl in the seminary in 1963. He said from those first days he has always seen a person chosen by God to build the Church “with an intelligence that reflects depth of perception and clarity of expression, a zeal that leads to tireless labor and unfailing pastoral care for God’s people and a firm commitment to advance the new evangelization and Catholic education at every level.”
Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, called Cardinal-designate Wuerl a “passionate proponent and leader in Catholic education” and pointed to his strong support of religious freedom as vital to America’s future.
“In addition, his most recent pastoral letter on the new evangelization shines a light on a new path for the Catholic Church into the future,” she said in a statement. “It is an honor for the Conference staff to serve the Church under the leadership of Cardinal-designate Wuerl, whose wisdom and vision serves as an example to all the faithful as we teach and advocate in the public square.”
The Cardinal Newman Society singled out Cardinal-designate Burke for a congratulatory message. The society works to strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education.
“Your seat among the princes of the church is surely a sign of encouragement for Catholics around the world praying for a deeper commitment of our institutions to their Catholic identity,” society president Patrick J. Reilly said in a statement.
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Contributing to this story was Joseph Kenny in St. Louis.
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