BISHOP WUERL APPOINTED ARCHBISHOP OF
PITTSBURGH – 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”