Alaskans from across the 138,000 square mile Anchorage Archdiocese packed into Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral on Nov. 9 to witness the installation of the new archbishop of Anchorage.
Archbishop Paul Etienne, the former bishop of the Diocese in Cheyenne, Wyoming, succeeded Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz. More than 800 people were on hand including church leaders from various denominations around Anchorage.
A bishop’s installation is a time-honored tradition in the Catholic Church, and a vivid reminder about one of the faith’s central teachings — apostolic succession — which traces today’s bishops from an unbroken line down to the Twelve Apostles who were commissioned by Christ.
When a newly-reassigned bishop — someone already ordained a bishop — is transferred from his former diocese, as with Archbishop Etienne, the bishop comes to “take possession” of his new diocese. In such cases the incoming bishop is solemnly received in the cathedral church by the clergy and local Catholics. This first step took place the night before the installation at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage during an evening prayer vigil (or vespers) on Nov. 8.
The next day, Archbishop Etienne was formally installed. The installation began with the new archbishop entering Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral with a greeting from retiring Archbishop Emeritus Schwietz.
At the start of Mass, the papal representative to the United States, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre, read to the congregation the document from Pope Francis appointing the new archbishop. It was formally shown to archdiocesan college of consultors for verification. At this point, the nuncio then led the new archbishop to the cathedra (the archbishop’s presiding chair) and handed him the crosier or archbishop’s staff. This is the moment at which he was installed, and the point when officially became the new archbishop of Anchorage.
For the Mass, many dignitaries were in attendance, along with most of the archdiocese’s priests, deacons, seminarians, men and women religious and many lay faithful. The liturgy proceeded with Archbishop Etienne delivering the homily.