How does a bishop take possession of a diocese? According to church law, a bishop may not assume the duties of his office until he takes what is called "canonical possession" of his diocese.
He takes possession during the installation ceremony, which, per canon law, should occur with two months of his receiving the apostolic letter of appointment. Bishop-Designate Salvatore R. Matano will take possession of the Diocese of Rochester during his installation at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Jan. 3, 2014.
As specified in Canon 382, "A bishop takes canonical possession of a diocese when he personally or through a proxy has shown the apostolic letter in the same diocese to the college of consultors in the presence of the chancellor of the curia, who records the event."
Furthermore, the canon notes, "It is strongly recommended that the taking of canonical possession be done within a liturgical act in the cathedral church with the clergy and people gathered together."
Just after the opening rites of the installation celebration, "the papal nuncio will read the apostolic mandate," said Father Robert Kennedy, who chairs the diocesan liturgical commission. Then, Father Kennedy noted, a deacon or priest will display the letter first to the diocesan priests and consultors (priests from the diocese who are chosen by the bishop to serve in the advisory College of Consultors) for a visual inspection and then to the congregation.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio to the United States, will then briefly question the bishop-designate concerning his willingness to accept the papal appointment and to serve "the people of this diocese in the tradition of Apostolic faith of the Church."
When the bishop-designate accepts the responsibility of shepherding the diocese, he will be led to the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, where he will receive his crosier (shepherd’s staff) and mitre, signs that he has taken possession of the Diocese of Rochester.
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Hare is a freelance writer in Rochester.