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Together with the faithful of the Church of Washington, I give thanks to God that we have a Pope and offer our joyful congratulations to our Holy Father Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We pledge to him our loyalty and love as the Vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Church Universal and Servant of the servants of God.
Pope Francis is endowed with so many gifts that enhance his mission now as the Chief Shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. We thank God for the many intellectual talents and spiritual qualities, pastoral experience and effective ministry of the new Pope.
When Jesus ascended to heaven, he did not leave us orphans. Rather, he gave us his new Body, the Church, led by his Vicar, and he sent the Holy Spirit who gives his gifts to the successors of Peter and the other Apostles and sustains the Church today. The blessing the Holy Father brings to us – and the reason why we salute him so joyfully – is the reaffirmation of our Catholic faith, grounded in the apostolic succession and tradition.
Pope Francis is more than just the successor to Benedict XVI; he is the successor to all those who came before him in an unbroken line going all the way back to Peter. In Pope Francis, we recognize the successor to Peter and the visible sign of the unity of the Church spread throughout the whole world. He is the touchstone for the mission, message and tradition of the Church.
We offer thanks to God for sending us Pope Francis as the Church continues in the Year of Faith and as we face the challenges and opportunities of proposing the Gospel to today’s world.
May God bring to fruitful completion what he has so wonderfully begun in the selection today of Pope Francis.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl is the Catholic Archbishop of Washington.