- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick celebrated his last Mass as the leader of the Archdiocese of Washington yesterday.

The cardinal served as the spiritual leader for more than 560,000 Catholics in the region since 2001.

“I thank God for the people of Washington,” he said during the Mass. “You have all been so good to me.”

More than 2,000 people attended the midday Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast.

Cardinal McCarrick, 75, delivered the homily without notes — as was his usual practice.

During his homily on the Last Supper, Cardinal McCarrick reflected on how God gives strength to different groups of people: married couples, priests, parents and those who, like him, are retiring.

“We need strength to know what God has in mind for us … strength that we will be able to do the work he calls us to do, whatever it may be,” he said.

When Cardinal McCarrick finished his homily, the crowd broke out in applause.

Among those who attended the Mass yesterday was Cardinal William Baum, who was archbishop of the Washington Diocese from 1973 to 1980, and several bishops and priests that Cardinal McCarrick had ordained over the years.

Cardinal McCarrick, who turns 76 next month, will turn over the leadership of the Washington Archdiocese to Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh on Thursday during an installation Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Eighty-one cardinals and 300 bishops are expected to attend the Mass, said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington.

She said most of the seats on Thursday will be ticketed specially, with only a couple hundred open for general admission.

Afterward, Cardinal McCarrick and the newly installed Archbishop Wuerl will travel to Rome. There, Archbishop Wuerl will receive his pallium — a long, woolen piece of fabric that all archbishops receive as a sign of their office.

Cardinal McCarrick said he will spend most of his time in the D.C. area, and will also spend some time in New Jersey, where he served as archbishop of Newark, N.J., for 14 years.

As Canon Law requires of all bishops, the cardinal submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI when he turned 75 on July 7. But, he had said at a meeting with archdiocesan priests in the fall that the pope had asked him to stay.

Cardinal McCarrick will retain his membership in the College of Cardinals, in which he can vote for any pope until he turns 80.

All of Washington’s archbishops, except the first, eventually have been named cardinals, but there is no church requirement that a cardinal first be an archbishop.

“When people ask me, ‘What do you say to someone going into retirement: congratulations or condolences?’ I say, ‘Just pray for me,’” he said.

After the Mass yesterday, the cardinal signed some autographs and received gifts from church members.

Cardinal McCarrick said that during the service he constantly was thinking, “Aren’t these people wonderful? You see them and see their faith and love.”

“I am just in awe right now,” said Sandra Fajemisin, 55, who has attended services at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception all her life.

Patricia Mazar, an administrator for the Georgetown University School of Medicine who lives in Great Falls, left Pennsylvania at 4:30 a.m. yesterday to see Cardinal McCarrick celebrate the Mass.

“It is bittersweet,” she said. “They are both such tremendous men. I am happy for [Bishop] Wuerl, but sad to see [Cardinal] McCarrick leave.”

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal McCarrick smiled and waved at congregants as the procession of clergy made its way around the shrine. As he walked up the steps to the sanctuary to leave, the crowd burst into applause. Cardinal McCarrick turned and waved.

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