ROME (CNS) — At the March 10 Mass he celebrated at his titular church, the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl urged members of the media –a large part of the congregation — to get the word out about the importance of praying for the upcoming conclave.
“Your presence,” he told the camera crews and reporters, “makes it possible for everyone at home to join us in prayer.” He said the cardinal electors particularly need prayers to be sure “the Lord will work through each of us.”
“We need all the prayers we can receive,” he added.
He described the conclave as a “sacred moment for the church” continuing the papal line which goes back 2,000 years.
The cardinal said that because of the oaths the cardinals make, he could not say anything specific about the conclave, only to say it was starting March 12.
In his homily, he spoke of the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation, describing it as an opportunity to be “assured of God’s love and forgiveness.”
He urged those present to seek this sacrament particularly at this time in Lent as a “way to renew in our hearts” God’s forgiveness and experience the grace of God who “never, ever stops waiting for us.”
During Mass several tour groups and random tourists walked along the church’s perimeter to get a closer look of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses at the front right. They could only view it from the side during Mass as a guard kept them from getting a closer view near the altar. The statue, which dates from 1515, was originally intended as part of a 40-statue funeral monument for Pope Julius II.
In a reliquary under the main altar are the chains which give the basilica its name. According to tradition, these blackened chains held St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Rome and Jerusalem..
Cardinal Wuerl said the church, located near the Colosseum, is “very special” to him.
Although he celebrated the Mass in English, he gave remarks in Italian at the beginning and end of Mass and afterward greeted some of the Italians who seemed to know him well.
One couple teased him about the possibility that he might be pope and he politely urged them not to even joke about that.