Pope Francis’s appointment of Cardinal Kevin Farrell as his special envoy to the Dec. 8 dedication of the Trinity Dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception reflects the pope’s devotion to Mary and his high regard for the shrine, and will also mark a special and fitting homecoming for Cardinal Farrell, said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington.

“Our Holy Father’s great devotion to the Blessed Mother is manifested here in his appreciation of our National Shrine dedicated to Mary under her title as the Immaculate Conception,” said Cardinal Wuerl, who will be the main celebrant at the Mass at noon Dec. 8 when the dome will be dedicated. He commented on the pope’s appointment in an interview with the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Pope Francis clearly recognizes the significance of the National Shrine, the cardinal said, noting that the pope during his 2015 visit to Washington celebrated the Canonization Mass for St. Junípero Serra at the basilica, the first sainthood ceremony ever held in the United States, and the pontiff beforehand met with several thousand seminarians and postulants who greeted him inside the shrine.

Those two experiences, and Pope Francis’s appointment of a special envoy to represent him at the Dec. 8 dedication of the basilica’s completed Trinity Dome, “highlights his recognition of what the National Shrine means to Catholics of the United States as we turn our devotion to Mary,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

“I’m very, very pleased and gratified to our Holy Father, that he chose Cardinal Kevin Farrell” to be the pope’s special envoy at the dedication Mass, the cardinal added. “Cardinal Farrell is one of our own. He was one of our priests, and one of our bishops. He continues to have great devotion and affection for the shrine.”

Cardinal Farrell was ordained as an auxiliary bishop of Washington in 2002, and early served in the archdiocese as a top administrator and parish priest for many years. In 2007, he was installed as the bishop of Dallas, and last year he was named to a top Vatican post and elevated to the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Wuerl noted that Cardinal Farrell serves as prefect for the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and he said the pope’s appointment also recognizes the National Shrine as a “devotional focal point” for lay Catholics and families making pilgrimages there, and for recognition of the dignity of human life and the new life that Christ brings. Each January, the basilica holds a Vigil Mass before the March for Life and hosts marchers from across the country.

The cardinal also noted the historic significance of the dedication of the Trinity Dome, as the conclusion of a nearly 100-year building project that commenced with the laying of the basilica’s foundation stone in 1920. The dedication of the Trinity Dome and its mosaics – which depict the Holy Trinity, Mary and angels joined by a procession of saints with a special connection to the Americas and to the shrine – will mark the completion “of this magnificent basilica,” he said.

This past Mother’s Day, Catholics from across the United States contributed to a special collection to raise funds for the completion of the Trinity Dome, which the cardinal noted “also has the significance of being the work of the entire Church in America. We reached out to every diocese and received overwhelming support from Catholics” from across the country, who recognized “this is our National Shrine, this is Mary’s House, and we want to be part of completing it.”