Key moments of an episcopal ordination

Denver Catholic Staff

The Ordination Mass for a bishop can be a lengthy liturgy, and if you don’t know what is going on, you can miss out on a lot of rich symbolism and meaning behind the various moments of the rite.

Here’s a brief summary of the key moments of an episcopal ordination.

Procession: Over 160 priests, bishops and one cardinal will process into the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, beginning at 12:15 pm, and the procession will take approximately 15 minutes. As a side note, the 54-person choir, directed by Dr. Mark Lawlor, represents various parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Denver, and includes many seminarians.

Veni, Creator, Spiritus: The “Come, Holy Spirit” prayer is chanted after the Gospel reading, and marks the beginning of the Ordination Rite of the Mass. The ancient prayer invokes the Holy Spirit.

Presentation of the Elect: The bishop-elect is presented to the consecrating bishop by two assisting priests of the archdiocese: Msgr. Michael Glenn of Our Lady of Peace in Silverthorne and Msgr. Jorge de los Santos of Holy Rosary Parish in Denver. Msgr. Glenn will ask the consecrating bishop to ordain the bishop-elect in the name of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Apostolic Letter: The apostolic letter from Pope Francis is then read aloud by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. This letter testifies to the desire on the part of the Vicar of Christ that a man receive the third and final “degree” of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, namely, the episcopate.

Assent: After the document is read, all present give their assent to the election of the bishop by saying: “Thanks be to God.”

Nine Promises: After the homily, the bishop-elect is asked nine questions to ascertain whether the candidate is 1) prepared to discharge this sacred duty until the end of his life, 2) remaining “faithful and constant” in proclaiming the Holy Gospel, 3) maintaining without change the “deposit of faith” that the apostles have passed along down through the ages, 4) to “build up the Church as the Body of Christ,” 5) to “remain united to it within the Order of Bishops under the authority of the successor of the Apostle Peter,” 6) to guide the People of God “as a devoted father,” 7) to “be welcoming and merciful to the poor,” 8) to “seek out the sheep who stray,” 9) and to pray unceasingly for the People of God.

Litany of the Saints: The principal consecrator invites all of the faithful to pray for the bishop-elect, who then prostrates himself while the entire congregation sings the Litany of the Saints.

Laying on of Hands and Prayer of Ordination: The principal consecrator followed by the other bishops lays hands upon the head of the bishop-elect. Then, the open Book of the Gospels is placed over the head of the bishop-elect, while the principal consecrator offers the Prayer of Consecration, in part with all the consecrating bishops. The placing of the Book of the Gospels illustrates that the preaching of the Word of God is the “pre-eminent obligation of the office of the Bishop.”

Anointing and Investiture: The Book of the Gospels is removed from above the head of the new bishop. The principal consecrator anoints the head of the new bishop with the Sacred Chrism, hands him the Book of the Gospels, places the ring on his finger, the miter on his head, and gives him the crosier or pastoral staff, symbols of the office of bishop.

Seating of the New Bishop: The new bishop then takes the first place among the concelebrating bishops.

Kiss of Peace: Before the Mass continues, the Rite of Ordination ends with the kiss of peace from the principal consecrator and all the other bishops who are present, which seals the new bishops’ admittance into the College of Bishops.

COMING UP: A last chance for Australian justice

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My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia’s High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal’s request for “special leave” to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse,” and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.

Thus in 2020 the highest judicial authority in Australia will review the Pell case, which gives the High Court the opportunity to reverse a gross injustice and acquit the cardinal of a hideous crime: a “crime” that Pell insists never happened; a “crime” for which not a shred of corroborating evidence has yet been produced; a “crime” that simply could not have happened in the circumstances and under the conditions it was alleged to have been committed.

Since Cardinal Pell’s original appeal was denied in August by two of three judges on an appellate panel in the State of Victoria, the majority decision to uphold Pell’s conviction has come under withering criticism for relying primarily on the credibility of the alleged victim. As the judge who voted to sustain the cardinal’s appeal pointed out (in a dissent that one distinguished Australian attorney described as the most important legal document in that country’s history), witness credibility – a thoroughly subjective judgment-call – is a very shaky standard by which to find someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It has also been noted by fair-minded people that the dissenting judge, Mark Weinberg, is the most respected criminal jurist in Australia, while his two colleagues on the appellate panel had little or no criminal law experience. Weinberg’s lengthy and devastating critique of his two colleagues’ shallow arguments seemed intended to signal the High Court that something was seriously awry here and that the reputation of Australian justice – as well as the fate of an innocent man – was at stake.

Other recent straws in the wind Down Under have given hope to the cardinal’s supporters that justice may yet be done in his case.

Andrew Bolt, a television journalist with a nationwide audience, walked himself through the alleged series of events at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, within the timeframe in which they were supposed to have occurred, and concluded that the prosecution’s case, and the decisions by both the convicting jury and the majority of the appeal panel, simply made no sense. What was supposed to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did.

Australians willing to ignore the vicious anti-Pell polemics that have fouled their country’s public life for years also heard from two former workers at the cathedral, who stated categorically that what was alleged to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did, because they were a few yards away from Cardinal Pell at the precise time he was alleged to have abused two choirboys.

Then there was Anthony Charles Smith, a veteran criminal attorney (and not a Catholic), who wrote in Annals Australasia that the Pell verdict and the denial of his appeal “curdles my stomach.” How, he asked, could a guilty verdict be rendered on “evidence….so weak and bordering on the preposterous?” The only plausible answer, he suggested, was that Pell’s “guilt” was assumed by many, thanks to “an avalanche of adverse publicity” ginned up by “a mob baying for Pell’s blood” and influencing “a media [that] should always be skeptical.”

Even more strikingly, the left-leaning Saturday Paper, no friend of Cardinal Pell or the Catholic Church, published an article in which Russell Marks – a one-time research assistant on an anti-Pell book – argued that the two judges on the appellate panel who voted to uphold the cardinal’s conviction “effectively allowed no possible defense for Pell: there was nothing his lawyers could have said or done, because the judges appeared to argue it was enough to simply believe the complainant on the basis of his performance under cross examination.”

The Australian criminal justice system has stumbled or failed at every stage of this case. The High Court of Australia can break that losing streak, free an innocent man, and restore the reputation of Australian justice in the world. Whatever the subsequent fallout from the rabid Pell-haters, friends of justice must hope that that is what happens when the High Court hears the cardinal’s case – Australia’s Dreyfus Case – next year.

Photo: CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images