The pope made the announcement at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square in Rome.
"I think this honor is directed more to Washington than to me directly. The church in the nation's capital has a very special role," Wuerl tells WTOP.
"I am humbled by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI's trust in me as shepherd of this flock and pledge to him my renewed fidelity, affection and loyalty," says Wuerl, in a news release from the Archdiocese.
Wuerl, who heads the Archdiocese of Washington, took over the archdiocese after Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick retired in 2006. Prior to Washington, he spent 18 years as Bishop of Pittsburgh.
Wuerl, 69, is a leading teacher of Catholic doctrine. He also is the chancellor of The Catholic University, chairman of the board of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and past chairman of the National Catholic Educational Association and the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
He is the fifth Washington archbishop since the archdiocese was founded in 1939 to become a cardinal. The others were Patrick A. O'Boyle, William W. Baum, James A. Hickey and McCarrick, who became a cardinal in 2001.
This is the just the the third time since the pope's election that he has appointed new cardinals.
The ceremony to install Wuerl and 23 other cardinal-designates will be held Nov. 20.
The newly named cardinals include Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis. Burke leads a Vatican court.
Twenty of the 24 cardinals are under 80. The other new cardinals are from Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
One major function of a cardinal is to elect a new pope in the event of death or resignation. Wuerl will eligible to vote in a papal election until his 80th birthday.
Wuerl plans to celebrate Mass at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, 1725 Rhode Island Avenue, NW.
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