(VATICAN CITY) — Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, on Wednesday argued against electing a pope from the United States because the pontiff would be conflicted about delivering the “spiritual challenge” that a superpower needs from time to time.
Speaking with ABC’s Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos in Vatican City on Wednesday, Wuerl also commended the pope’s final public address and his historic decision to step down, while discussing the unlikely appointment of a U.S. pope at the upcoming Conclave.
“I think the conventional wisdom, which I think is correct, is a pope from the superpower would probably have a lot going against him when he’s trying to present a spiritual message to the rest of the world,” Wuerl said.
“The United States is a grand and glorious and great country, but the pope has to be able at times to speak a spiritual challenge, even to the United States,” he added. “So I’m not sure that it would be the wisest thing to have an American Pope.”
Wuerl, 72, commended Benedict on his final weekly address, which took place Wednesday from St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. Benedict, 85, is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
“It was beautiful, it was moving and it really tugs at the heart,” Wuerl said. “But he also reminded us that the church moves on. It just has to continue his work.”
The Vatican said 70 cardinals were present Wednesday, and it is expected that about 100 will be present on Thursday at the meeting with the pope on his last day as pontiff. The conclave to elect Benedict’s replacement will start next month at a date yet to be determined.
Wuerl told GMA about his hope for the next pope.
“I think I would like to see in the successor to Benedict that spiritual quality that keeps focused on the mission of the church which ultimately…is spiritual,” he said. “There are so many challenges today, but the real work of the church is simply to tell people God is with us.”
He also said the next pope will have to adapt to the modern world.
“The new pope is going to have to be very attuned to the world, in ways that the old pope never was,” he said. “We have all of this electronic, social media. The pope is going to have to be immersed in that.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Samantha Beech, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN