During a Feb. 10 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl presented the cathedral with a processional cross as a gift. The cardinal began his homily by referencing that day’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus calls on his disciples to leave everything and follow him, as well as the second reading in which St. Paul writes of the Apostles’ task  to proclaim the message of the Church. 

“What is unfolding in the Gospel today is something that has been repeated over and over and over again for 20 centuries,” said the cardinal. “Some hear in their heart Jesus’ call, ‘Do not be afraid,’ and they are prepared to leave everything and follow him.”

Many things constitute the heritage and teaching of the Catholic Church, continued Cardinal Wuerl, noting that St. Paul in that day’s reading says the task “of first importance” for the Apostles is sharing the proclamation of the Church: Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Every Mass should be a moment of spiritual renewal and personal confirmation of this, the cardinal said.

“The Church lifts high the cross to remind us of the invitation to renew our personal encounter with Christ. It is for our sins that Christ has come among us, died on the cross for our sins, and was raised on the third day so that we, too, might have hope of redemption and salvation.” said the cardinal. “Whenever we come together for the celebration of Mass, we do so in full communion with the successor to Peter and bishop of Rome. When we place this crucifix alongside the altar, we are in a clear and visible manner proclaiming that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day,” said Cardinal Wuerl as he concluded his homily.

The processional cross that Cardinal Wuerl gave to the cathedral has special meaning because within it is a pectoral cross that was a gift from the United States bishops to Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani in recognition of his 25th anniversary as the Apostolic Delegate (the delegate of the Holy Father) to the Church in the United States, where he served from 1933 to 1959. From 1961-69, Cardinal Cicognani served as the Vatican’s Secretary of State, and he died in 1973 at the age of 90. Contained within the cross is a relic of the true Cross.

Cardinal Wuerl, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington until a new archbishop is installed, served as the archbishop of Washington from 2006 until his resignation that he had submitted in 2015 when he turned 75 was accepted by Pope Francis in October 2018.