Priests and other archdiocese-watchers said they would be listening closely to Wuerl's homily, looking for some sense of how he would balance spiritual leadership with the political issues that fuel daily life here -- some view the Washington archbishop as a de facto national Catholic spokesman. But in his 25-minute homily, Wuerl avoided controversial topics, emphasizing that a bishop's job is to teach, to "feed the sheep."
Wuerl is known in his hometown, where he served as bishop for the past 18 years, as "the teaching bishop." He hosted a weekly cable television show and has compiled a best-selling book of Catholic teachings, now in its sixth edition. He was also known as a behind-the-scenes bridge-builder, someone who preferred pressing quietly in private to making demands in public.
"My hope is to walk with you, to work with you, to minister together with you and for you so that Christ's light, already shining brightly in this faith community, will continue to be reflected in all of us ever more strongly," he told the rapt crowd. "It is also the role of the church to see that the light of the Gospel shines on all of the discussions, all of the debate that help to mold our culture and our society. The voice of our most cherished values, the voice of the great teaching tradition rooted in God's word and God's wisdom, simply has to impact the life of our society."
"In an age that so desperately needs to hear the gospel of life, to witness the splendor of truth, and to live the challenge of faith and reason, the church -- you and I -- gathered around the successors to the apostles, one with Peter, must lovingly, persuasively and fearlessly reflect the light of Christ," Archbishop Wuerl said.
Music commissioned for his 1988 installation in Pittsburgh made the transfer with him to Washington. The ceremony, in the grandeur beneath the great domes of the basilica, nevertheless felt familiar to those who had witnessed his major diocesan Masses in Pittsburgh.
The heart of the installation came when 12 bishops and priests of the archdiocese ritually inspected the papal mandate naming the new archbishop of Washington. The tradition dates back centuries when communication with Rome took months, and it was possible for an impostor to present himself. The chancellor of the archdiocese, Jane Belford, then proclaimed that the pope had appointed Archbishop Wuerl to Washington.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the United States, read the mandate, a personal letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Archbishop Wuerl. The pope wrote of the intellectual gifts and diocesan experience that he would bring to his new post, as well as "your proven fidelity to Mother Church."
The symbolic highlight was when Archbishop Sambi and Cardinal McCarrick escorted him to his throne in the basilica. Archbishop Wuerl took his seat, Archbishop Sambi handed him the crozier, or shepherd's staff, of the archbishop, and Cardinal McCarrick moved back out of sight, to take his seat with the other cardinals.