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Cardinal Wuerl: Road to the papacy?

A few years ago, we opined that no one should be surprised if the Rev. Donald Wuerl someday became the pope of the Roman Catholic Church. More than a few dismissed the notion. Neither time nor nationality was on his side, they said.

But the times caught up with the Pittsburgh native on Wednesday. Pope Benedict XVI named the former longtime Pittsburgh bishop, archbishop of Washington, D.C., since 2006, as one of 24 new cardinals. Archbishop Wuerl, who turns 70 next month, will have his formal investiture and receive his red biretta on Nov. 20.

And with that installation -- formally known as "consistory" -- Pope Benedict will have chosen more than half of the current College of Cardinals, a number expected to rise to two-thirds given the number of cardinals turning 80 next year, the age at which they no long can vote on papal matters, including the selection of a new pope.

Benedict remains in good health. But he does turn 84 next year. And it should no longer be considered wild-eyed speculation that a catechist the conservative caliber of Wuerl would be considered in the top tier of papal successors.

"But he's an American," some will argue. It echoes the same discounters who argued "But he's a Pole" prior to Pope John Paul II's selection or "But he's German" about Benedict.

But let us put the handicapping aside for now to congratulate Cardinal-designate Wuerl and to wish him the very best.

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