Amid criticism, Cardinal Wuerl begins ‘season of healing’

A mass Friday night at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest D.C. kicked off a six-week "season of healing" for the Archdiocese of Washington. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

WASHINGTON — The Archdiocese of Washington has begun a six-week “season of healing,” which comes as Cardinal Donald Wuerl faces criticism over his handling of sex abuse cases from decades ago when he led Pittsburgh’s archdiocese.

It began with a mass Friday night at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest D.C. During his homily, Wuerl said the healing process for the church and the archdiocese must start with helping those who were victims of abuse at the hands of clergy.

“For the survivors, a starting point has to begin with the church’s embrace, asking for forgiveness, this is what I do over and over again,” Wuerl said.

As the church looks to heal, Wuerl’s future as D.C.’s archbishop remains uncertain.

Donald Wuerl
FILE – In this Sunday, April 24, 2011 file photo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, sprinkles Holy Water during Easter Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Three years ago, in continuing a long custom for cardinals, Wuerl presented his resignation to Pope Francis when he turned 75 years old. Now, Wuerl plans to return to the topic once again with the pontiff in the coming weeks.

“He feels as part of this healing process, he should go back to Rome, discuss with the Holy Father what’s been learned here and what he’s heard, and then decide next steps on leadership,” said Ed McFadden, secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington.

McFadden said Wuerl is planning on taking that trip to the Vatican in the coming weeks.

Outside the church, longtime St. Matthew parishioner Grace Soderberg, of Garrett Park, Maryland, said the church needs to confront the sex abuse scandal head on, and that it will take more than a season of healing to move forward.

“You can’t have the doctor who has poisoned you heal you. He needs to step down, then we can all move on and start the healing process,” Soderberg said of Wuerl.

Dan Corrin, of D.C., believes it will take new leadership for the church to get past this dark chapter, such as, he said, “a new group of priests, who are not tainted by what’s going on, to lead the church over the next decade.”


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