.- Pope Benedict XVI has named Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Major Penitentiary of the Holy See, to represent him at the November inauguration of a new altar in the restored Basilica of the Assumption.
In his role as Major Penitentiary, Cardinal Stafford handles cases related to absolutions and dispensations reserved to the Holy See. He also issues decrees announcing the possibilities of indulgences. Prior to his role at the Tribunal, Stafford had served as President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
The cardinal, however, also has close ties to Baltimore, having been raised in the city. Stafford was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1957 and was named an Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore in 1976.
The 200-year-old Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States. It will reopen for the Nov. 4-12 celebrations, after a two-year, $32-million restoration.
The restoration uncovered the cornerstone as well as a gallery for slaves, which had been built over in the 19th century. Four skylights in the cathedral's 87-foot-high (26-meter-high) dome were restored. Paintings of the four evangelists, which are 140 years old, were uncovered on the wall near the dome and also restored.
The cathedral was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the U.S. Capitol.