Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"So Help Me God"

Before heading an hour south to take office as New Jersey's 55th chief executive, Gov.-elect Chris Christie began his Inauguration Day with an early-morning Mass at the Garden State's mother church -- Newark's Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart -- celebrated by the state's metropolitan, Archbishop John Myers.

From North Jersey's Star-Ledger, the early line:
The official inauguration ceremony is in Trenton, but Newark, the state's largest city, is playing the starring role. In addition to Mass, [Christie's] day ends with a reception at the Prudential Center. The holy ceremony opens a day of inaugural festivities that will bring the state's first Republican governor in eight years to office.

Government officials and dignitaries, such as former New Jersey governors, the New Jersey Congressional delegation, members of the State Senate and State Assembly and New Jersey Supreme Court, filled the pews of the church. Business leaders such as Donald Trump were seen walking up the aisle for communion....
Christie's oldest son, Andrew, 16, read a passage from the Book of Kings during service. In his homily, Archbishop Myers delved into the history of the Cathedral and the history of New Jersey.

"My brothers and sisters, look around you, and you will see the most beautiful, the most magnificent, building in the City of Newark," Myers said to the packed Cathedral. "It sits on the highest hill in New Jersey's largest city."

Myers brought the congregation through the history of the state from the Native American Lenape tribe, to the state's role in the revolution, before drawing on the wisdom of Solomon to counsel the incoming governor.

"History tells us that all was not perfect under the reign of Solomon," he said. "But that during the times that Solomon was faithful, the kingdom prospered."

Christie, a practicing Catholic, has promised to pursue an agenda largely in keeping with church doctrine, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage.
"We pray you will be blessed with wisdom, even more we pray you will be blessed with the wisdom of Solomon -- you will need it," Myers said....

The mass ended at about 9:30 a.m., with a chorus of "America the Beautiful" roaring through the church.
For the first time, the nation's most densely-populated state will be swearing in a lieutenant governor at today's civic rites in Trenton's War Memorial. Yet while Christie ran on a pro-life pledge, his running mate, Kim Guadagno, declared her support for abortion rights.

Previously the sheriff of GOP-heavy Monmouth County, Guadagno received the Eucharist at this morning's liturgy.

He might've been born in Newark -- and made his name as a corruption-busting US Attorney in the city -- but the incoming guv's Mendham home lies just outside the archdiocese's western line.

With 1.3 million members, the Newark church might be US Catholicism's tenth largest diocese by population, yet its 511 square miles likewise make it the nation's second smallest local church by area. (The smallest of 'em all -- the 179 square-mile Brooklyn church -- is the seventh-largest by population, with 1.8 million Catholics.)

Catholic Republicans swept the two governor's chairs up for grabs at last November's elections -- the other winner, Virginia's Bob McDonnell, was sworn in on Saturday in Richmond.

That said, while Christie's inaugural reflected his Catholic side, the Southerner's office-taking had a more Evangelical feel to it. McDonnell might've earned his bachelor's from Notre Dame, but his more prominent alma mater's been Virginia Beach's Regent University, the presence of whose founder, the ever-controversial Pat Robertson, made for the most prominent religious turn at the weekend ceremonies.

PHOTOS: John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger