WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Washington's Archbishop Donald Wuerl is on his way to Rome to begin the process of electing a new Pope.
He spent his last Sunday Mass before heading to Rome honoring Pope Benedict XVI.
A record number of nearly 4,000 parishioners crowded the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to hear the Cardinals homily.
"I told him to get the job done and be open to the Holy Spirit. Maybe the new Pope will come out of South Africa or South America," parishioner Tim Breen said.
Pope Benedict will step down on Thursday, citing age and health
issues as reasons for his retirement. But some speculate the sex abuse scandal had something to do with it.
The papal conclave is suppose to start 15 to 20 days after the seat becomes vacant. But because of the announcement of the Pontiff's resignation made in advance and because of Holy week, it could start earlier. The conclave involves the cardinal electors forced into seclusion until a decision of three-fourths majority is made on the new Pope.
Cardinal Wuerl will be one of 11 U.S. Cardinals and one of 117 who are eligible to participate in the conclave to find Pope Benedict the XVI's successor.
He is asking everyone for prayers in the biggest decision he'll ever make.
"I can't imagine doing something more important than this."
What he knows for sure is he'll be listening.
"Once inside you are suppose to be quiet the idea is listening to the Holy Spirit."
He believes the next Pope will have to be younger, and at the same time have the experience to be chief shepherd.
The cardinals will enter the conclave next month. The next time we see the Cardinal on U.S. soil we will have a new Pope leading the 1.2 billion Catholics.
The Pope elevated Washington archbishop Wuerl to Cardinal in 2010.
He's eligible to become Pope himself, but admits it's not likely that any of the U.S. cardinals will be in the running for the position.