Papal chair now part of Alaska shrine

The former presider’s chair (cathedra) at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage now sits in the church’s narthex as a shrine to Saint Pope John Paul II who once used the chair during his historic 1981 visit to Anchorage. Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz said he wanted the chair relocated to give the faithful a better place to venerate the beloved saint.

Now considered a relic of the recently canonized pope, the high backed carved walnut chair, circa 1900, resided at the late Archbishop Emeritus Francis Hurley’s private chapel in Anchorage since the pope’s landmark visit at Delaney Park Strip on Feb. 26, 1981.

When Pope John Paul II arrived, he sat in the chair during the course of the Mass. That visit remains the largest single gathering in Alaska, drawing some 65,000 to 80,000 people to Anchorage’s park strip.

The origins of the chair are humble. According to Father Steven Moore, who was serving as vicar general under Archbishop Hurley at the time of the papal visit, the chair came from a used furniture store. In 2014 Archbishop Hurley told the Catholic Anchor that the Dominican priest, Father Larry Farrell, brought it out before the papal visit. Since the pope presided from the chair it had never been used in a public Mass before it was installed as the presider’s chair at Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2014.

Michael Bagenski, an architectural designer who helped plan the papal visit, described the chair as a sturdily carved turn-of-the century relic. “It wasn’t a throne. It was ordinary but sturdy dark wood,” he said.

'Papal chair now part of Alaska shrine'
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