WASHINGTON — Builders, church leaders, choir members and
journalists gathered atop eight floors of scaffolding — 159 feet high — in the
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Oct. 28 for the
blessing of the workspace where a new mosaic will be installed on the shrine's
"It will be a wonder to behold," said Washington
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of the dome, which is expected to be completed by the
end of next year. The mosaic will depict the Trinity, Mary and 13 saints
associated with the United States or the national shrine, the four evangelists
and words from the Nicene Creed.
The finished dome also will mark the completion of the national
shrine, according to the original architectural plans for the church set to
mark its centennial in 2020 — the 100th anniversary of the placement of its
During the blessing, Cardinal Wuerl offered prayers for the
success of the project and the safety of the workers involved. He said the
shrine puts into "image form" the message of the Gospel and does so
"in a way that everyone can bask in its beauty."
He said the finished dome, with its particular emphasis on
American saints, will remind people of the "face of who we are and the
face of God." He also said it will reflect "living images of God and
living images of everything we are capable of being."
In introductory remarks, Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the
national shrine, stressed the parallels between the mosaic design on the dome
and the very character of the shrine itself — often described as America's
Catholic church — representing a mosaic of Catholic parishioners from every
corner of the globe.
He said a special one-time collection for the dome work will take
place on Mother's Day, May 14, 2017. The last time a national collection was
done for the shrine was in 1953 when it was being built.
Both Cardinal Wuerl and Msgr. Rossi noted that the scaffolding
itself, allowing the workers to complete the work on the dome, was an
engineering feat. Work on the scaffolding began early this year.
The mosaic work is being done at the Travisanutto Giovanni mosaic
company in Spilimbergo, Italy, and will be shipped to the national shrine in
30,000 sections weighing 24 tons and composed of more than 14 million pieces of
Cardinal Wuerl, who blessed the work site, the workers and those
present, urged the group of about 90 people at the ceremony to be sure they
touched the wall of the dome before they left "because you'll never have a
chance to do it again."
Remind yourself, he said, that this is "the completion of a
100-year project" which reflects to whoever comes in this building that
God is with us.
"Remember today for a number of reasons," the cardinal
added. "First of all you were here. You were here at a moment in