Installation ceremony is dense with significance, history

by Luke Eggleston
SUN staff writer

The ceremonial installation of a bishop is one of the most important events in any diocese. There have only been 10 such ceremonies in more than 100 years of history of the diocese.

Each facet of the ceremony is full of ritual significance. In many cases, the artifacts used bear some historical significance to a particular diocese’s history.

Bishop Robert Cunningham was installed as bishop of the Syracuse Diocese on May 26. He recalled fondly his first installation as bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg five years earlier. “It was a wonderful day. The Cathedral filled to capacity — parishioners of the diocese, family and friends. It was a humbling spiritual experience. Cardinal Egan ordained me a bishop and then installed me. I was extremely happy and anxious to begin serving the people of this diocese. The title of bishop is one of service and not of honor. I try to serve to the best of my ability,” the bishop said.

The primary participants in most installations are the representatives of the diocese, such as the college of consultors, the outgoing bishop or the auxiliary bishop and the chancellor, and the rector of the cathedral, and representatives of the larger church such as the archbishop, representing the authority of the archdiocese and, in some cases, the apostolic nuncio, representing the authority of the college of bishops. The word “nuncio” is derived from the Latin word “nuntius,” which means “envoy.” The nuncio is the Vatican’s permanent representative or ambassador to an institution or nation.

The priests who participate in the ceremony process to the altar before the ceremony begins and are positioned to welcome the new bishop. The ceremony begins with the cathedral representative and the diocesan representative standing at the back of the church.

The new bishop is escorted to the vestibule doors by the archbishop and the apostolic nuncio.
According to Director of Liturgy for the Syracuse Diocese Father Joseph Scardella, the apostolic nuncio’s participation in the installation is the first since Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Costello was ordained in 1978.

When he arrives outside the vestibule doors, the new bishop knocks, asking to be let into the church, according to Father Scardella. “The new bishop knocks on the door literally asking entrance into the church in Syracuse,” said Father Scardella, explaining the ceremony.

The bishop is then welcomed into the church by the rector and the diocesan representative, in this case Msgr. Neal Quartier and Bishop Thomas Costello. The rector then hands the new bishop a cross, which he kisses, and holy water, which he sprinkles on the attendees as he proceeds toward the altar.

The cross Msgr. Quartier presented to Bishop Cunningham was one that was found by a priest of the Syracuse Diocese in 1887 in the Buffalo suburb of Tonowanda. The same cross was presented to Bishop Joseph O’Keefe during his installation in 1987.

In addition, the ceremonial pectoral cross worn by the new bishop was Bishop David Cunningham’s, whose tenure as head of the Syracuse Diocese lasted from 1970 to 1977.

Upon arriving at the sanctuary, the archbishop takes his seat on the cathedral, while the new bishop takes his place among the presiders. Then the archbishop begins with the sign of the cross before asking that the apostolic letter detailing the new appointment be read. The apostolic nuncio then reads the letter from the pulpit. After that, the chancellor signs the letter on the altar, impresses it with the seal of the Syracuse Diocese and displays it to the board of consulters and then the people in attendance.

Next, the nuncio, the archbishop and the out-going bishop accompany the new bishop to the cathedra, the bishop’s chair, where he is handed the crozier. The passing of the crozier is the moment when he actually takes canonical possession of the diocese,” Father Scardella said.

After the crozier is passed, the attendees applaud as a sign of their welcome and affirmation. The final stage of the installation includes a host of diocesan representatives officially welcoming the bishop. In the Syracuse Diocese ceremony, the representatives included the college of consultors, Deacon Les Distin on behalf of the deacon community, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, then Sister Patricia Burkard, OSF representing the religious of the diocese; Father Justin Biase, OFM Conv. for the Franciscan community; the Christian Brothers; representatives from the Religious Education Office; Catholic Charities; the ecumenical community; the Asian Apostolate; the Spanish Apostolate; Black Catholic Ministry; the Office of Persons with Disabilities; the Respect Life Office and Office of Youth Ministry.

As the new bishop was greeted, the choir sang Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, an old Latin hymn which was traditionally sung whenever a bishop visited a parish church for confirmation.
A typical Mass follows the installation ceremony with the new bishop as the celebrant and homilist.

Following the homily, the general intercessions during the ceremony in Syracuse were uttered in seven different languages including Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish, Swahili, Italian, Korean and English.

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