By Ralph Iannotti

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl left Dulles International Airport for Rome where he will be elevated to cardinal this weekend by Pope Benedict XVI.

He said at the airport he was excited about the trip and the high point will probably be his visit with the pope.

Wayne Wuerl, the cardinal-designate’s older brother, said he knew all along that his brother wanted to be a priest.

Wuerl lives in Peters Township with his wife, Jean, and they’re leaving for Rome on Thursday. They’re among the more than 400 friends, relatives and associates of cardinal-designate Wuerl who are making the trip to Rome, mostly at their own expense.

According to a story in the Washington Post, Archbishop Wuerl’s barber, a Pittsburgh rabbi who is a close friend to Wuerl and MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews are also going to Rome.

For Pittsburghers not making the pilgrimage to the Vatican, Cardinal-designate Wuerl will celebrate a mass of thanksgiving Sunday, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. at Saint Paul Cathedral in Oakland followed by a public reception.