By Dominique Johnson
The North Star Catholic
With three knocks on the front door of Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral, Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M., was welcomed as the first archbishop of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
The liturgy commenced with the new archdiocese’s inauguration, with the reading of the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States. The mandate officially united the Archdiocese of Anchorage and the Diocese of Juneau, creating the new metropolitan Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
The papal decree also named Our Lady of Guadalupe the Cathedral of the Archdiocese. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau received the title of co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
The historic day continued as the apostolic nuncio read a letter appointing Archbishop Bellisario as the first archbishop of the newly erected archdiocese. The letter described the shepherd’s familiarity with his flock, having served as a pastor in the Archdiocese of Anchorage and the Bishop of Juneau. The papal bull was then read and presented to Archbishop Bellisario.
The next step in the inauguration and installation process was presenting the pallium to the new archbishop. The pallium is a circular strip of white cloth worn on the metropolitan archbishop’s shoulders and by the Pope. The cloth is made in Rome from the wool of lambs that are blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. The Pope blesses the palliums on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and then they are kept at the tomb of Saint Peter until being sent to a new metropolitan archbishop.
During the prayer of the imposition of the pallium, Archbishop Pierre said, “May this pallium be a symbol of unity and a sign of your communion with the Apostolic See, a bond of love, and an incentive to courage.” The bishop was then led by the nuncio to the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, to applause by those in attendance.
With the new archdiocese erected and its first archbishop installed, the Mass continued as usual.
Archbishop Pierre touched on the importance of a bishop being a good shepherd to his flock during his homily. “A shepherd, when his sheep are weak, places them on his shoulders. He carries them, guides them, cares for them and leads them back to the source of living water,” the nuncio said. Therefore, the metropolitan archbishop wears the pallium, made of sheeps wool, as a reminder of the flock he leads, the nuncio shared.
The homily continued with a call for prophecy and a prophetic Church. Archbishop Pierre said, “We need lives that show the miracle of God’s love. Not speeches, but service. We are not to become rich, but to love the poor. Not to save up for ourselves, but to spend ourselves for others.” The prophetic Church needs people who love God, and this is the call the Holy Father placed on Archbishop Bellisario, he said.
Archbishop Pierre concluded his homily sharing that Pope Francis has called Archbishop Bellisario to lead others to “the mystery and to the joy of the world to come” while asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the cathedral of the archdiocese.
Before the liturgy concluded, Archbishop Bellisario thanked those who watched the livestream celebration in the state of Alaska, throughout the world, as well as those in attendance. He shared that the appointment given by Pope Francis humbled him and “I hope I can live up to the faith and trust that he has placed on me.”
He shared his excitement about being a part of something new. “We have an opportunity that Pope Francis has given to us to create something that is fresh and can bring about the new evangelization,” the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Bellisario shared that though we are beginning something new with the inauguration of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau, “there is a lot that is maintained, the deposit of faith, our doctrines, our teachings” all remain the same.
He concluded his remarks sharing his vision for the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. He envisions an archdiocese energized by “compassion, care and concern” and “empathy and sympathy” for those who are hurting in the community. This is an “energy that is constant,” the archbishop shared. “This is the kind of energy that is from the Lord.” It is this energy that he hopes will fuel the people of God in southern Alaska.