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Bishop Wuerl Gives Final Pittsburgh Mass

June 12, 2006

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Bishop Donald Wuerl thanked Roman Catholics throughout southwestern Pennsylvania for their support during a special farewell Mass before he departs to become archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Wuerl, a 65-year-old Pittsburgh native, was chosen last month by Pope Benedict XVI to replace retiring Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as one of the most visible leaders of the Catholic Church in the nation.

More than 1,400 people _ including families, community leaders and government officials _ gathered for the service Sunday at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

``The office of bishop in itself is weighty, challenging and very demanding,″ Wuerl said in a homily. ``However, no bishop carries out his ministry by himself. My joy this afternoon is in the opportunity to say to you who have been so much a part of my efforts to serve this church, ’Thank you.‴

The congregation, from children to retirees, erupted in applause as the bishop walked down the aisle of the cathedral where he was first introduced to the Pittsburgh area’s 800,000 Roman Catholics nearly two decades ago.

Monique Dietz, the 72-year-old president of Pittsburgh’s Ladies of Bethany nuns, said she enjoyed the service, but that Wuerl’s departure leaves her with ``mixed feelings, of course.″

``Gratitude and sadness, I can’t help but having the two,″ she said.

Wuerl completed his ministerial training in Washington and returned to Pittsburgh in 1988 after working in Seattle. His latest appointment was the first major diocesan post to be filled by Benedict after he became pope in April of last year.

While the Archdiocese of Washington is smaller, with 560,000 members, the position will put Wuerl in contact with national leaders, including Roman Catholics who do not always publicly agree with church positions.

Wuerl has been described as a moderate conservative whose views closely adhere to those of the Vatican and his predecessor in Washington, Cardinal McCarrick. He is scheduled to be installed as the archdiocese’s sixth bishop June 22.

``It’s hard to pick up roots, but I’ve already received such a warm reception there that I’m really looking forward to starting,″ said Wuerl. ``It’s time to open a new chapter.″