Archbishop of Baltimore installed

O'Brien pledges all for most vulnerable

October 02, 2007|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,Sun reporter

In a solemn and symbolically rich ceremony, Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien was installed yesterday as leader of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, vowing to draw men to the priesthood, intensify the fight against abortion and help the vulnerable who live in the city.

And he began humbly.

"I come to you no genius, and with limited talents and abilities ... but I pledge to you before God and his people: Whatever I am, and all that I have, I give to you," he said in his homily.

O'Brien became the 15th archbishop of the nation's first archdiocese in the two-hour Mass of installation at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in North Baltimore, taking over for Cardinal William H. Keeler, who held the post for 18 years.

It took nearly half an hour for the approximately 450 priests, deacons and seminarians - walking two-by-two in white vestments - to file into the cathedral, followed by 77 bishops, archbishops and cardinals. Keeler, in red robes, entered last.

A panel of priests stood to examine a scroll bearing the order from Pope Benedict XVI appointing O'Brien. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio, or emissary, to the United States, then read an English translation of the Latin document.

Sambi asked O'Brien if he was willing to accept the position.

"With faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and with the love of God in my heart, I do accept the pastoral care of the people of God in the Archdiocese of Baltimore," O'Brien said, to a standing ovation.

Then, the new Baltimore archbishop, flanked by Sambi and Keeler, walked from his seat in front of the altar to the cathedra, or bishop's seat. They handed him the crosier, or shepherd's crook, used by Baltimore's third archbishop, Ambrose Marechal. O'Brien also used Marechal's chalice during the Mass.

Before the Mass, Keeler gave O'Brien a simple gold pectoral cross - a crucifix bishops wear over the heart - that had belonged to Baltimore's first bishop and archbishop, John Carroll.

In the majestic cathedral, O'Brien turned and waved to the congregation. Then he stood to greet a stream of children and representatives of Baltimore's Catholic schools, charities and hospitals, as well as the Hispanic, African-American and deaf communities.

Gov. Martin O'Malley and Mayor Sheila Dixon represented the people of Maryland and Baltimore, and leaders from Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faiths also welcomed O'Brien.

The new archbishop of Baltimore laid out his priorities in his homily, pledging to continue the work of Keeler and other Baltimore prelates to promote religious freedom, interfaith cooperation and civil rights.

O'Brien called upon youth of the archdiocese to "be radically generous" by committing to religious life as a priest or nun, as a Catholic school teacher or for Catholic social service agencies.

He challenged Catholics within the archdiocese to a deeper prayer life and welcomed those who have been estranged from the church. "Please consider the arrival of this newcomer among you an invitation from me personally and from the entire archdiocese to come home to the church," O'Brien said.

The archbishop then said that God sees his image in every human, an image defaced by poverty, discrimination, addiction, crime and "by the horrific sexual abuse of the young."

He asked God's forgiveness for situations when the Roman Catholic Church had "failed to do its utmost to curb these evils."

"I pledge, today, that I shall make every effort to ensure that whatever sins of omission or commission have been committed in the past will have no place in our future," he said.

O'Brien offered financial support to help pregnant women avoid abortion. "The right to life is the greatest civil rights issue of our time," he said.

The archbishop also committed to continue the archdiocese's history upholding the dignity of life for residents of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

"To write off large parts of the city as hopeless and beyond redemption is to disregard thousands of lives made in the image and likeness of God," O'Brien said.

"I pledge to you today that this archdiocese will make every effort to ensure that the dream that animated Dr. [Martin Luther] King and so many others of us does not die - for realizing that dream is central to the preaching of the Gospel which is the core of the church's existence."

The archbishop's words resonated with those in attendance.

"It seems as though he's going to make a difference," said Brenda Rigby, a parishioner at St. Gregory the Great parish in West Baltimore, who appreciated his attention to the needs of African-Americans. "He recognizes that there's a problem."

Harold A. Smith, the executive director of Catholic Charities, said that O'Brien echoed the pope's statements about Catholics' commitment to the poor as a church. "He sees it as a responsibility that we all have as a part of our faith to be engaged," Smith said.

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