altCardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, today asked the Catholic faithful to pray for the Church and Pope Benedict XVI after learning of his resignation this morning:

“Pope Benedict XVI’s love for the Church is such that he has concluded it would be better not to try to lead this huge flock without the full strength of all of his energies. We pray for him, we pray for the Church. It is a sign of the great humility of this Pope and his love of the Church that he has the courage to recognize that he doesn’t have the physical energy to discharge his duties as Pope. That recognition says to me that he is a very humble and honest person.

“Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy is his engagement of faith with the modern world. He has called on all of us to focus on the spiritual mission of the Church, proclaim the Gospel and once again, bring this personal relationship all of us are capable of having with God, back to the foreground…He declared a Year of Faith to remind all of us that there is a basic doctrine that is bedrock for Catholic faith.”

Cardinal Wuerl is one of 10 American Cardinals who are of voting age (under age 80) and will be part of the conclave to elect a successor to the Chair of Saint Peter. There are 118 Cardinals around the world who are under age 80 and will meet after the Pope’s resignation takes effect on February 28, 2013.

In regards to the successor, the Cardinal would not speculate. “Among the qualities I would hope that the person has — whoever is chosen — would be a very strong focus on the spiritual mission of the Church. The Church exists to carry on the work of Jesus. The Church exists to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do that out of the realization that we are a people — the Church is a people — a family of God that has a relationship with God, a spiritual relationship.

“I think that when we go into the conclave, what has to drive all of us, what has to be uppermost
in the hearts and minds of all of us is, ‘What is God asking of us in making a choice for Pope? Who will fill the Chair of Peter?’ That is going to be the only consideration. Who among us in this body has the qualifications, the characteristics, the spiritual gifts to fill this Chair?”

Below is audio and video from the press conference Cardinal Wuerl held this morning at The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC: