Bishop Robert J. Cunningham installed the 10th Bishop of Syracuse

By Connie Berry  SUN editor
SUN photos by Paul Finch

Amidst all the pomp and circumstance the church displays on memorable occasions, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham was installed the 10th Bishop of Syracuse by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose own installation as archbishop of New York took place only six weeks ago. The installation took place May 26 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse. In the presence of Edward Cardinal Egan, Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of New York, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. There were more than two dozen bishops and archbishops joining Bishop James Moynihan and Bishop Thomas Costello in concelebrating the installation Mass. Priests from the Ogdensburg, Buffalo and Syracuse Dioceses numbered more than 250. Seminarians from both the Ogdensburg and Syracuse Dioceses took part in the Mass as well, along with the deacon community and women and men religious. The new bishop’s family sat in several pews at the front of the cathedral, which was filled to capacity.

It took more than 15 minutes just for the priests to enter the cathedral and be seated. Young people from across the diocese processed with banners and representatives from many ministries participated in the installation. Retiring Bishop James Moynihan received a resounding standing ovation as he made his way to his seat at the altar of the cathedral.

The ceremony of reception of the bishop-designate took place before the liturgy. All the concelebrating bishops gathered in the rear of the cathedral with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the Metropolitan for the Dioceses of New York, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi escorted Bishop Cunningham to the front of the cathedral. Bishop Cunningham knocked on the cathedral door to be admitted by Msgr. Neal Quartier, rector of the cathedral. Archbishop Sambi presented Bishop Cunningham to Bishop Thomas Costello who welcomed him to the diocese on behalf of the clergy, religious and the faithful.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” Bishop Costello said. “We receive you and we embrace you … with 100,000 welcomes.”

The new bishop was greeted and affirmed with applause by the congregation. Bishop Moynihan welcomed Bishop Cunningham saying, “The Holy Father has blessed us with your appointment.”

The Papal Nuncio was to read the apostolic letter from the Vatican regarding Bishop Cunningham’s installation. On a light note, Archbishop Sambi said that the official document — the apostolic letter — had “not yet arrived from Rome.” However Archbishop Sambi said the pope had “kindly granted” him the lawful authority to allow Bishop Cunningham to assume office.

Members of the diocesan and local church community greeted Bishop Cunningham at the altar. The new bishop took his time and spoke to each representative as he met them.

Bishop Cunningham’s homily stressed the importance of the history of the Syracuse Diocese. He spoke about each of his predecessors and said, “I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before me…we are no less eager to build up this church.”

The bishop concluded his homily by thanking all the people who participated and those who organized the installation. “I say from my heart …. heart speaks to heart …. may Mary walk with you as a favored companion,” he said.

….Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Bishop Robert Cunningham took questions from the press the morning of the installation. They were questioned about the challenges facing the Catholic Church today. The archbishop said the challenges were not so different from those faced in the Apostles’ time — building up the church being the primary goal. The two were also asked about contemporary issues such as same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. “There is a difference between speaking and honoring,” Bishop Cunningham noted. “We should not honor someone who takes such a stand against Catholic Church teachings. This was so soon after his election. Permitting him to speak is one thing, but honoring him is another.” Archbishop Dolan said that the U.S. bishops understand that colleges and universities need to be “places of civil discourse.” Another question arose regarding the “softening” or “loosening up” of the Catholic Church. Both clerics agreed that the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage is not a matter of being anti-gay but rather pro-marriage. Bishop Cunningham commented on the controversy that sometimes arises regarding contemporary issues. “It is a question of beliefs. If you are a believer and a practicing Catholic then you abide by the church’s teachings. The church has to remain true to itself. Thomas More lost his head in being true to the church.” Bishop Cunningham thanked the press saying, “We can’t tell our story without you.”……

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