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Cardinal Baum was a “dear beloved pastor and friend,” said Cardinal Wuerl at Funeral Mass

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, today celebrated the life of Cardinal William Wakefield Baum in a Mass of Christian Burial at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Cardinal Baum died at age 88 on July 23. He was the Archbishop of Washington from 1973-1980, and he also served as a cardinal for 39 years – the longest tenure in U.S. history. Following the Mass, Cardinal Baum was laid to rest in the crypt of the Cathedral, where his predecessor, Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle and his successor Cardinal James Hickey, are also interred.

“We gather today so that we might with faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and his pledge to us of new life remember and celebrate the life and ministry of Cardinal Baum, thank God for it and pray to God for our dear beloved pastor and friend,” Cardinal Wuerl said as his recalled the life and legacy of Cardinal Baum in his homily.

Cardinal Wuerl recalled a recent visit with Cardinal Baum, who had retired to the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington, D.C., and was cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor. “This particular day, we reflected on what it will mean to say we see God face to face… Now he knows the answer.”

Cardinal Baum was a man of faith who many times in his life heard God’s call and responded, the cardinal said. He noted that in his thirties, Cardinal Baum was already recognized as one of the Catholic Church’s authorities on interfaith relations, serving as an advisor on ecumenical matters at the Second Vatican Council and later as the first executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He was also a co-founder of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, one of the first such institutions in our nation bringing together leadership of many religious traditions, the cardinal noted.

“In this Cathedral Church are many who can attest to the quiet, profound and absolutely unshakable faith in the Church as part of God’s plan that marked the life of Cardinal Baum,” the cardinal said. “His was a ministry of engagement not confrontation.  Nowhere was this more evident than in his ministry here in this archdiocese,” he said, noting how Cardinal Baum worked to bring healing and unity during the unrest of the 1970s.

Cardinal Wuerl related how he came to know Cardinal Baum during this time while working on a catechism for adults. They would again work together after Cardinal Baum was appointed Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education in 1980. Cardinal Baum also later served as Major Penitentiary at the Vatican, as well as serving as a member of other curial offices in Rome.

“Underlining this diversity of assignments was Cardinal Baum’s total dedication to a single vision – the vision of the priesthood as Christ at work in the world and his personal, firm commitment to serve the Lord as his priest, which he did for 64 years,” said the cardinal.  Cardinal Baum “responded faithfully to the call to become an image of Jesus, dedicated to maintaining Christ’s love and teaching, leading and sanctifying those entrusted to his care.”

In concluding his reflections, Cardinal Wuerl said that our tears in mourning the death of this beloved pastor and friend “are wiped away today. We pray with confidence that our brother now may enter the presence of God whom he now sees face to face. May his life be a blessing for all of us, may his witness be an example to each of us and may his faith and ours be the force that wipes away our tears in anticipation of when we too hope to see God face to face.”

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