Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Commentary On The Office Of Bishop, Symbols Of Office And The Rite Of Canonical Installation

Published January 20, 2005

Today is a celebration not only for the Archdiocese of Atlanta but also for the entire Church throughout the world. Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has appointed His Excellency, the Most Reverend Wilton Daniel Gregory to succeed His Excellency, the Most Reverend John Francis Donoghue as the sixth archbishop of Atlanta. The Holy Father’s personal representative, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Gabriel Montalvo, Titular Archbishop of Celene and Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, will show and read the official decree announcing Archbishop Gregory’s appointment. Then the Apostolic Nuncio will install Archbishop Gregory in his chair “cathedra” to take his place as our new shepherd, the sixth archbishop of Atlanta.

Today’s liturgy is rich in symbolism and tradition. From the symbols of a bishop’s office to the rite of installation itself, every sign and moment continues the sacred tradition of the Catholic Church. This celebration will draw into prayer and contemplation, as we pray for Archbishop Gregory who will take possession of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We also pray for Archbishop Donoghue that God will grant him many happy years of retirement and reward him for his faithful service. And we pray for the Archdiocese of Atlanta as we welcome our new shepherd.

Explanation Of The Office Of Bishop

As the authoritative teacher of those entrusted to his care, the bishop interprets the Christian revelation to his flock. At his ordination he is asked to confirm his beliefs in the major tenets of the Creed. He must set forth the moral teaching of Christ and make judgments on conditions within the diocese to which principles of social justice apply. The apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (the Gospel must be proclaimed) sums up the thought of the Church on this point: “In union with the successor of Peter, the bishops, who are successors of the Apostles, receive through the power of their episcopal ordination the authority to teach the revealed truth in the Church. They are teachers of the faith.” A bishop is to sanctify, teach and govern. These are three distinct but not separate tasks. It is a question, in fact, of three aspects of the one office of the pastor, the successor of the Apostles. Each of these tasks presupposes the other two. As regards his teaching task, the bishop is not only the one who instructs but who leads. His word is not only based on the truth; it is the way. It marks out a path, for the bishop is the head of the flock which he governs in order to lead it to meet the Lord. His teaching is also sanctifying (the Council says deliberately that the bishop is a spiritual guide). Through the specific dynamism of conversion and deepening of religious life, he gathers and constitutes the Christian community which reaches its culminating point in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The bishop, as the local chief shepherd, encourages a spirit of prayer, celebrates the liturgy for all, works for peace and justice, especially for the poor and disenfranchised, and strives to promote a healthy dialogue with other faiths.

Symbols Of The Office Of The Bishop

There are several symbols of the Office of the Bishop. The first symbols are connected with the bishop’s cathedral. The “Cathedral Church” is the site of the bishop’s chair or “cathedra.” It is a symbol of the spiritual temple that is built up in souls and is resplendent with the glory of divine grace. The bishop’s chair (cathedra) is placed prominently near the main altar. It represents the seat of diocesan authority that is vested in the bishop, our chief priest, teacher and pastor, the one to whom all the people of the diocese look for guidance.

The other symbols are those of the bishop’s office. The miter, or peaked cap, was first used exclusively by the pope as a mark of distinction. By the 12th century, its use was extended to all bishops as a mark of their office and a symbol of their authority. The zucchetto, or skull cap, was developed to cover the tonsure, that part of the back of the head that was shaved as a man entered into the clerical state. The ring originally worn by the pope and known as the “Fisherman’s Ring” was to link the ministry of the pope with the ministry of Saint Peter the Apostle. By the 12th century, all bishops had adopted the custom. It is a sign of the bishop’s fidelity and nuptial bond with the Church, his spouse. The pectoral cross is worn to reflect the order of dignity of the office of bishop. It served originally as a reliquary of the True Cross, which encouraged the custom of wearing this cross close to the heart. The crosier or pastoral staff takes its shape from the crook used by shepherds. Over time, all bishops acquired the custom of carrying a staff as an outward sign of their ministry as shepherds of God’s people. The crosier is carried by the bishop as a sign of his jurisdiction, a sign that this is indeed his flock.

Rite Of Canonical Installation

The importance of today’s ceremony is highlighted by the presence of the Holy Father’s personal representative, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo. Once the procession has taken place, Archbishop Montalvo will read the Official Decree of the Holy Father appointing Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory as the Sixth Archbishop of Atlanta. Once the Decree has been read, Archbishop Gregory will present it to each of the priests who form the College of Consultors. The Chancellor of the Archdiocese will be the one who will record the event in the archives of the Curia. Once this has taken place, Archbishop Gregory will be escorted to the cathedra by the Apostolic Nuncio and Archbishop John F. Donoghue. When he is seated in the chair, he formally takes up his role of shepherd of the Lord’s Flock in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The Congregation acknowledges by applause the acceptance of their new Archbishop. After Archbishop Gregory is seated for a moment, he will stand and receive the fraternal kiss of peace from Archbishop Montalvo. Then, representatives of the archdiocesan community, ecumenical and interfaith representatives, as well as civic officials will be brought forward to greet and welcome Archbishop Gregory.

At this point in the liturgy, Archbishop Gregory will become principal celebrant of the Mass. For the first time, the archbishop will celebrate with his priests, the Banquet of Christ’s Sacrifice. For all of this, our celebration today is one of joy and thanksgiving. We take this opportunity to pray for our new shepherd and united with Saint Paul’s sentiments, let us remember that in all that we are and in all that we do, “We are the Lord’s.”