- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2001

The Archbishop of Washington Theodore E. McCarrick yesterday asked congregants of the Church of the Annunciation in Northwest D.C. to grant him his final wish before he boards a flight for Rome to become cardinal: He asked everyone to pray for him.

"I asked everyone to pray that I would be the less-ugly duckling among the great men who will be in Rome this week," Archbishop McCarrick told The Washington Times yesterday after celebrating his final Mass as archbishop in Washington.

"When I get there, I'll look around and see all these holy men and wonder why I'm here," he added. "I will be overawed. But in the end, it's a great honor."

Archbishop McCarrick, 70, boarded a flight for Rome last night at 7 to begin a six-day celebration at the Vatican. There, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, he and 36 others from around the world will be officially installed as cardinals during a Papal Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II. Archbishop McCarrick will receive a zucchetto the scarlet-colored skullcap and a ring during the Mass.

The pope appointed Archbishop McCarrick and two other Americans last month, about four weeks after the pontiff named the archbishop to head the Washington archdiocese.

The two other Americans elevated to cardinal were Monsignor Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, and Avery Dulles, a Jesuit theologian and professor at New York's Fordham University. Father Dulles is the son of John Foster Dulles, the U.S. secretary of state during the Cold War years for whom Washington Dulles International Airport is named.

"I'm more excited than anything else," the archbishop told The Times yesterday afternoon. "This is going to be like a family party. It'll be a great time to pray and thank the Lord."

As cardinal, Archbishop McCarrick will serve as an adviser to the pope on universal church matters and will be eligible to vote in a papal election that will appoint the pontiff's successor when the time arrives.

Five hours before his flight yesterday, Archbishop McCarrick said he still had to finish packing for his trip, even though he was taking just one carry-on bag. He also called his 93-year-old aunt who lives in a nursing home in northern New Jersey to say goodbye.

"That was one of my important things to do," he said of the phone call.

Archbishop McCarrick then celebrated Sunday Mass at the Church of the Annunciation on Massachusetts Avenue, where he reassured congregants that he will continue to serve the people of the Washington archdiocese when he returns next week.

"My first job is to love you and serve you, and I ask you to pray for me that I can do that well," he told the congregants, who, in return, wished him well.

The Church of the Annunciation is the same church where Cardinal John Paul II celebrated his last Mass during his visit to Washington before he became pope in 1978. And it is the same church where Archbishop McCarrick celebrated Mass before he learned he was going to be elevated to cardinal.

Archbishop McCarrick is scheduled to land at Fumicino Airport near Rome early this morning. From there, he is to stop by Gammarelli, the official papal tailor in Rome, where he will be fitted for his hand-sewn cassocks, the long garments he will wear when he is installed as cardinal.

Tomorrow, Archbishop McCarrick is expected to celebrate a Mass at the North American College, where he will be staying this week. The college is about a five-minute walk from St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop McCarrick said he can't wait to see his old college classmates in Rome this week, to catch up on old times and meet the American seminarians studying in Rome. But he said he is also a little nervous about taking on the role of cardinal.

"I hope I can do something worthwhile as cardinal," he said as he prepared to finish his packing. "First you bring your people with you. You bring their dreams, their concerns and their prayers with you. You bring your experiences of your whole life with you. I'm looking forward to do that."

Once he returns to Washington next Monday, the archbishop said, he will continue visiting all the parishes within the Washington archdiocese and getting to know the members of his flock. Since last month, Archbishop McCarrick has visited nearly 40 parishes in the District and Maryland.

Archbishop McCarrick said his duties as cardinal will come second to his duties as the head of the Washington archdiocese, even though his new job could take him to Rome up to 10 times a year. He insists that nothing will stand between him and the 510,000 Roman Catholics in the Washington archdiocese.

"I may have to go to Rome more frequently when I'm cardinal but I'm hoping that I won't be taken away from the people I've been sent to work with," he said. "I know that the Lord wants me to do what I've been sent here to do. And with God's help I'll continue what I've been doing for the last month."

The archbishop plans to celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew's in Northwest and at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast when he returns from Italy.

Archbishop McCarrick said he will be happy to return home after a week abroad. "The first thing I'm going to do is call my aunt and tell her I'm home," he said.

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