Washington's new archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, installed

Roman Catholic leader is expected to stress vocations to priesthood

January 04, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - In a ritual nearly as old as Christianity, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick entered the Cathedral of St. Matthew last night and was formally seated in his cathedra, the chair symbolic of his religious authority over the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

McCarrick, an authority on international affairs who serves on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, was installed last night as the fourth archbishop of Washington during an evening prayer service attended by hundreds of well-wishers, many of them the priests who will answer to him.

A Mass of Installation will be celebrated this afternoon at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

The former Archbishop of Newark, N.J., McCarrick, 70, is taking over a high-profile archdiocese that includes parishes in suburban and southern Maryland. He succeeds Cardinal James A. Hickey, 80, whose resignation was accepted by Pope John Paul II in November.

"Dear brothers, I have looked forward to this day so much," McCarrick said in his first official remarks to the priests. "It has been with an eagerness to get started in serving you, in working with you, in coming to love you as brother and father and friend - indeed, as beginning a new family."

Last night's evening prayer service was part of the Liturgy of the Hours, a series of prayers that is recited daily by the church's priests, nuns and brothers. As the service began, the doors of the cathedral - the grand red-brick church where the funeral Mass of President John F. Kennedy was celebrated - were opened to a fanfare of trumpets, and McCarrick stepped inside.

After the congregation recited several psalms, the biblical hymns of praise to God, the Vatican mandate appointing McCarrick to his new position was read aloud and examined by local church officials to determine its authenticity.

Now formally installed, McCarrick said he had "no illusions" about the loftiness of his new position.

"The day of the announcement, as I was starting home to Newark, I was standing in the airport as a man reading a newspaper very close by looked up and saw me," McCarrick said. "He exclaimed, `What good news!' Somewhat flattered and delighted that he had recognized me, I said `Thank you.' His face became somewhat quizzical and after a pause he smiled and said, `I mean about the great pandas. They're coming to our zoo, you know.'"

McCarrick, a native of New York, had served as archbishop of Newark since 1986. During his tenure, he ordained more priests than any other bishop in the United States, and is expected to make vocations to the priesthood a priority in Washington.

Shortly after his appointment was announced, he told the Associated Press that he would encourage Catholic families to "be open" to having their sons become priests.

"Oftentimes, you get wonderful Catholic families who say, `Oh, yeah, we do need priests very badly, but not my son,'" he said.

McCarrick attended Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y., before he entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., which trains priests for the Archdiocese of New York. He was ordained by Cardinal Francis Spellman in 1958.

He earned a master's degree in history from St. Joseph's and a second master's degree and a doctorate in sociology from the Catholic University of America.

McCarrick's first assignment as a priest was as an assistant chaplain at Catholic University, where he later served as a director of development. In 1965, he was named president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce, where he served four years, until he was recalled to New York by Cardinal Terence Cooke, who appointed him associate secretary for education. He was Cooke's personal secretary from 1971 to 1977.

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