Archbishop Charles J. Chaput promised to lay down his life to restore faith and trust among Catholics in Philadelphia, during his Sept. 8 installation at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
“Whatever my weaknesses and whatever my lacks, no bishop will give more of himself than I will to renewing this great Church,” the new archbishop promised in his installation homily. “Everything I’ve learned, everything I know, and everything I have, I will give to this ministry, because all of you – the people of God – deserve at least that much.”
The former Archbishop of Denver took up his new role in a ceremony attended by approximately 1,500 guests, including Philadelphia's previous archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali, papal representative Monsignor Jean-Francois Lantheaume, and nearly 700 other clergy, religious, and seminarians. Mayor Michael Nutter and other civic leaders were also among the invited guests.
Because of flooding, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was unable to attend the installation.
Archbishop Chaput began his homily by describing his new appointment as an “arranged marriage,” with Pope Benedict XVI as the “matchmaker.”
As he promised himself to the Church in Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput spoke of what the new “marriage” would require.
“For any marriage to work, two things need to happen,” he said. “People need to fall in love, and together they need to be fruitful. That’s what we need to dedicate ourselves to today – to love one another and be fruitful together in the new evangelization.”
“I receive you as a gift from the Holy Father, and you receive me and my service as a gift from the Holy Father,” said the archbishop. “And this requires us to make a commitment, an act of the will, to love one another, to be patient with one another, and to lay down our lives for one another.”
“No bishop will try harder to help persons who have been hurt by the sins of the past,” Archbishop Chaput promised his new flock, which has been rocked by allegations of clerical sex abuse. “And no bishop will work harder to strengthen and encourage our priests, and restore the hearts of our people.”
Archbishop Chaput's message to his new church, which includes nearly 1.5 million Catholics, also took inspiration from the day's liturgical feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her life, he observed, was not only a beautiful example of holiness, but also a story of faithful perseverance in the face of trials.
“We need to follow the example of Mary and Joseph, trusting God in the difficult times of our life,” he reflected. “The issues that Joseph and Mary faced seemed insurmountable and caused intense confusion. But the name given to Jesus signifies 'Savior,' and we know that in Jesus, God promises to be with us.”
Like Mary and Joseph, Catholics today “need to make the act of faith embedded in today’s first reading: that 'all things work for good for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose.'”
The archbishop quoted a modern saint named for both Joseph and Mary, Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva, to drive home the point about God's care for believers in the midst of suffering. “Have you forgotten that God is your father? Or that God is powerful, infinitely wise, full of mercy?”
In regard to his own duties, Archbishop Chaput highlighted the words of the fourth-century bishop St. Augustine, who described bishops as “watchmen” protecting God's people.
Despite their high office, as Augustine said, bishops must have “a heart such that we place ourselves beneath your feet in humility” – in order to “help the poor, to liberate the oppressed, to encourage the good, to suffer the evil and to love all men.”
By these acts, a bishop imitates Jesus Christ – whose leadership of the Church, Archbishop Chaput noted, more than compensates for its human failings.
“One of the first representations of Christ we have is the Good Shepherd who carries a lamb on his shoulders,” he recalled.
“All of us should keep that image in our hearts in the months ahead, because the Good Shepherd really will bring the Church in Philadelphia through this difficult moment in our history to security and joy and a better future.”
In his closing remarks after the installation Mass, Archbishop Chaput expressed gratitude toward his predecessor Cardinal Rigali for “extraordinary service to the Holy Father and the Catholic community worldwide.” He also thanked the priests and deacons in attendance, “saying they had “ already shown … uncommon friendship and support, and I will try to earn it.”
To the faithful in the cities where he served previously, Rapid City and Denver, the archbishop said he continues to “thank God every day for the gift of your friendship and the way you have enriched my life.”
And to Catholics in Philadelphia, whom he thanked for their “extraordinary kindness,” he promised “to live as a bishop in a way that repays your great love and respect.”