Rome’s Mayor Giovanni Alemanno (left) greets Cardinal Donald Wuerl during a June 7 Sister-Signing Ceremony in  at the John A. Wilson Building in downtown Washington. In the center is Washington’s Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
Rome’s Mayor Giovanni Alemanno (left) greets Cardinal Donald Wuerl during a June 7 Sister-Signing Ceremony in at the John A. Wilson Building in downtown Washington. In the center is Washington’s Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
Besides being capitals of their respective countries, Rome and Washington D.C. now have something else in common. They're sister cities.

The two cities' mayors made it official on June 7 at a Sister-Signing Ceremony in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at the John A. Wilson Building in downtown Washington, at which Cardinal Donald Wuerl was an invited dignitary.

Washington's Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who is Catholic, and Rome's Mayor Giovanni Alemanno gave speeches, exchanged gifts and signed matching sister city documents. The new relationship will allow for joint promotion of tourism between both cities among other things.

Rome also officially loaned the District the famous Capitoline Venus statue that dates to ancient Rome. It will be on display at the National Gallery of Art until September. This is only the second time in the statue's ancient history that it has left Italy.

"We are convinced that in the case of our cities, our political and cultural history will also be the driving force of our future," Alemanno said in reference to Rome and Washington.
After posing for post-ceremony pictures with both mayors, D.C. Chairman Kwame Brown and others, Cardinal Wuerl said that both Rome and Washington "represent the culture of their respective countries."

"But even more, Washington really is a reflection of everything that is so good in our Western world," he added. "Rome represents the great historic tradition that is our basis of our goodness - our respect for one another, our appreciation for the dignity of one another, and the understanding that we are a free people who come together for the Lord's work."

The cardinal says he makes four or five trips to Rome in a year. He has even closer ties to the city since he took possession of his titular church, St. Peter in Chains, in May.

"I really have two homes; I have Washington and then, in a way, Rome," he said. "So it's nice that they're sister cities."