WASHINGTON – Back from his first papal conclave, Cardinal Donald Wuerl pulled back the curtain on the mystery of how the Catholic cardinals choose a new pope.
Speaking on WTOP Thursday, the Archbishop of Washington described how the atmosphere changed among the cardinals the moment they entered the Sistine Chapel and how they came to know Jorge Bergoglio would be the next pope.
Wuerl says before entering the Sistine Chapel, “you’re trying to size everybody up.”
But once the cardinals enter, “you actually hear that door being closed and locked,” he says. “And then it’s silence.”
Wuerl says he took the advice of another cardinal, who told him to open his heart once inside the chapel.
“‘The Lord will speak to your heart,'” Wuerl says the cardinal told him. “And that’s what happened.”
“In that quiet, prayerful room where there’s nothing going on except listening to God speak to you, all of the sudden his (Bergoglio’s) name surfaces, and he begins to be seen as the one who’s going to be pope,” Wuerl says.
He says the conclave confirmed for him that “prayer does work.”
Bergoglio, who has been installed as Pope Francis, is described by Wuerl as a man who will face challenges with a “contagious joy.”
The pope is a leader who looks to the future, he says, and wants to focus on the “really big issues.”
“How do we see that we have an environment for children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren? How do we see that we create a world of peace that’s based on simply respecting one another?” Wuerl says. “He keeps coming back to this idea of, ‘Why can’t people just respect and care for one another?’
“Imagine what it would be like around the world if that caught on — if people actually did care for one another or respect one another.”
Hear Wuerl’s full interview above and to the right.