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Cleveland Catholics Install a New Bishop

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 2:42 PM

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Hundreds of clerics from around the country filled St. John's Cathedral Monday to join Cleveland-area Catholics in welcoming a new Bishop. ideastream's David C. Barnett has this report on the installation ceremonies for Boston-native Richard Lennon, an event filled with colorful clothing and ancient ritual.

See Also:
Challenges Facing Cleveland’s New Catholic Bishop
(Feature Story)

The Cathedral was awash in an assortment of robes and the traditional headgear of a number of Catholic sects. The purple cassocks and tall pointed mitres of the Roman rite bishops contrasted with the black vestments and rounded crowns of the Eastern rite leaders. In all, there were 30 bishops and over 320 U.S. priests in attendance, including: Vatican ambassador Pietro Sambi; Boston Cardinal, and Lakewood native, Sean O’Malley; and Ohio Arch-Bishop Daniel Pilarczyk, who greeted him at the Cathedral entrance.

Daniel Pilarczyk: As the metropolitan of Cincinnati of which the diocese of Cleveland is a member, I welcome you to this, your new See, through these open and ancient doors.

Continuing a ritual dating back hundreds of years, the Arch-Bishop escorted Richard Lennon to the front of the sanctuary where he sat alone. Pilarczyk then called upon Vatican delegate Sambi to read the Pope’s letter which names Lennon to his new post.

Pietro Sambi: We appoint you Bishop of the Cathedral church of Cleveland, conferring upon you the rights and obligations which belong to said office in accordance with canon law.

Then, Pietro Sombi and Daniel Pilarczyk led the Bishop-to-be to the Cathedra - or seat of authority - and when he sat down, the congregation gave their approval in the form of a standing ovation.

In his first official sermon, Bishop Lennon spoke of his hope to unite various factions of the 800,000-member diocese.

Richard Lennon: I pledge myself to work with all of you, so that together, we’ll build a better church in Cleveland.

He also cautioned the congregation that he has a lot to learn, and unlearn, in his new position. To illustrate this challenge in a light-hearted way, the new Bishop used a personal parable involving his recent attendance at a Jacobs Field baseball game between Cleveland and his hometown of Boston.

Richard Lennon: In the first inning, a slugger from Cleveland hit that ball out of the park for three runs, and people were clapping and cheering. Someone nearby nudged me and said, “Try and clap a little, they’re looking at you.”

Which is certainly an apt metaphor for Cleveland’s new Catholic leader, who’s an outsider, presiding over a diocese where many parishioners have grown-up knowing only his predecessor, Anthony Pilla. But, yesterday’s ceremony was a display of trust and hope, with nary a trace of suspicion or division. Following the Bishop’s homily, came a demonstration of both unity and diversity, as short prayers were spoken in some of the many tongues that make-up the Cleveland diocese.

Then, after sharing in a communion service, the congregants made their way out of St. John’s and into a rainy Cleveland evening - some heading to a nearby reception for the new Bishop, others heading back into their daily lives, now under the new spiritual guidance of Richard Lennon. David C. Barnett, 90.3.

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