Saturday, April 15, 2006

Capital Movements?

Tomorrow, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick will preside over his last Easter as archbishop of Washington. McCarrick, who turned 75 last July, has confirmed that he expects his resignation to be accepted by year's end, and the buzzmill from the District has been veering at a noticeable clip in recent weeks.

While the cardinal and his aides have maintained that they anticipate a late-summer or early autumn transition, several reports from the capital in recent days indicate that the move might be taking place within weeks. The name of 65 year-old Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh has repeatedly surfaced as the speculated nominee. Wuerl, a curial veteran who has served as head of his home diocese since 1988, has been mentioned on innumerable occasions in the past as a front-runner for various senior posts in the United States.

At last month's consistory in Rome, Cardinal McCarrick spoke quite openly of his retirement plans, saying he was looking forward to "Sleeping in, going out to lunch, reading the newspaper, and taking a nap," among other perks of leaving active ministry behind. Earlier in the week, a source present at the Washington Chrism Mass termed the cardinal's homily a "valedictory" of his five-plus years as head of the archdiocese, saying that it seemed clear that McCarrick "knows something's up...."

The last week of April will be a busy period in Catholic Washington. The international Sant'Egidio Movement will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1986 ecumenical Prayer for Peace gathering at Assisi with a two-day conference at Georgetown University on 26-27 April. At least five cardinals and an all-star cast of international prelates will be present.

The following day, the annual American Cardinals dinner -- a prime fundraiser for the Catholic University of America, of which the Washington archbishop is ex officio chancellor -- will be held in the city. The dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building will be preceded by a concelebrated liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at which the US cardinals and a large number of the nation's hierarchy will participate.