Cardinal helping select next pope tells audience to ‘speak of our faith’

(Naples News) Days ahead of his departure for Rome to participate in the papal conclave, a U.S. cardinal encouraged Southwest Florida Catholics on Thursday night to embrace a “new evangelism” as the church faces an unexpected change in leadership.

“We need to have the courage to speak of our faith, to engage others in hearing the story of our faith,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said during a fundraiser in North Naples for Ave Maria University.

Wuerl, who also serves as archbishop of Washington, will join 10 other U.S. cardinals Sunday as they unite with the 118-member College of Cardinals in the Catholic Church’s administrative seat in Rome to determine the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope jarred his congregation worldwide earlier this month when he announced he would step down at the end of February for health reasons. He was the first pontiff to resign since the 15th century.

The conclave could start as early as the first week of March, Wuerl said. The cardinals hold discussions before heading into a period of silence and contemplation to determine the church’s next leader.

“The first thing that comes to my mind and heart is just how important this decision will be,” Wuerl said during a brief press conference before Thursday night’s event. “It’s a moment, however long that moment might be — days, weeks — it’s a moment of silence. And the silence is to allow the spirit to speak to the heart of each cardinal.”

Wuerl was appointed to his current position in 2010 by Benedict, who began his tenure as head of the church in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. [More]


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