Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's Official: In LA, The Archbishop Cometh

Two weeks after these pages' first report on the story, this morning has seen the first on-record confirmation emerge from the West that "the process for the selection of the Archbishop of Los Angeles has already begun."

In a memo sent yesterday to the pastoral ministers of the 5 million-member archdiocese's Our Lady of the Angels Region, Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark made the announcement while circulating a prayer for the process that'll produce LA's fifth archbishop.

Approved by Cardinal Roger Mahony for liturgical use, the prayer will be employed in the LA church's nearly 300 parishes "beginning on or before February 28, 2010" -- a day after the cardinal's 74th birthday, and Day One of his final year at the helm of the nation's largest diocese.

According to a senior archdiocesan official who confirmed the initiative, the prayer's impetus was born from a group-think led by the cardinal at the presbyterate's last annual convocation, with an eye to the progressive icon's victory lap and, indeed, the historic appointment of a coadjutor archbishop in the coming weeks to first assist Mahony, then succeed him shortly after the controversial cardinal -- who'll see a quarter-century at the archdiocese's helm in September -- reaches the retirement age of 75.

Here below is the fulltext of Clark's memo, as obtained by Whispers late this morning:
Our Lady of the Angels Pastoral Region
to: Pastors, Administrators, Parish Life Director, and all Priests
from: Bishop Clark
date: 10 February 2010
re: Prayer for the Selection of the Next Archbishop

As you may be aware, the process for the selection of the Archbishop of Los Angeles has begun. The Cardinal and the Council of Priests have approved the following prayer in Spanish and in English for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the selection of the Cardinal’s successor. Permission is granted to translate the prayer into other languages as well. We are asking that the prayer be recited in all the churches of the Archdiocese each Sunday and on other occasions, even daily at Mass and in the recitation of the Divine Office, beginning on or before February 28, 2010. The following announcement can be used (spoken or printed) in introducing the prayer to the people of our Pastoral Region.

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Canon Law of the Church requires every bishop on his seventy-fifth birthday to submit his letter of resignation to the Holy Father. In this month of February 2009 our Archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, reaches his seventy-fourth birthday. The process for the selection of the next Archbishop of Los Angeles has already begun. The Cardinal and the Council of Priests have requested that all parishes and parishioners of the Archdiocese join with them in prayer for the selection of the Cardinal’s successor. The following prayer has been approved for recitation in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“Lord, God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide. In your mercy, grant to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles a shepherd who will walk in your ways and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing. In your love for us, give us the joy of receiving a shepherd who will be an example of goodness to your people and who will fill our hearts and minds with the truth of the gospel. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Between the lines, it's particularly fitting that the first "official" word on Mahony's succession comes from the 63 year-old auxiliary.

A former rector of St John's Seminary in Camarillo before being named to head the largest of the archdiocese's five pastoral regions, the co-consecrators at Clark's 2001 episcopal ordination just so happened to be then-Archbishops William Levada and Justin Rigali, both since given the red hat... and, more to the point, the two prelates who'll ostensibly shepherd the selection process through its penultimate stage from their seats on the Congregation for Bishops, which meets again a week from today.
* * *
On a related note, word from points Pacific says that Mahony will be missing a good part of the next edition of his signature event.

Scheduled for 18-21 March, the second half of this year's Religious Education Conference in Anaheim is taking a back-seat to the cardinal's commitment to attend a Washington march and lobbying day for immigration reform -- the issue on which he's long been the US bishops' guiding spirit. Part of a "National Faith Mobilization" backed by the Stateside church, the DC push for "comprehensive, humane" reform is expected to be the final major engagement of Congress on immigration before November's midterm elections.

Before departing for the capital, Mahony will preside over Congress' traditional "Youth Day" opening on Thursday along with Friday's sessions... the latter of which usually brings one of the weekend's most anticipated moments: the cardinal's annual web-chat. Still, the DC march will find the lead host absent from his showcase's climactic rite -- Sunday's mammoth closing Eucharist, customarily replete with the liturgical dance and contemporary music that've long made LA the chief flashpoint in the US church's eternal culture wars.

Invariably drawing over 40,000 catechists and clerics, and featuring workshops and liturgies in a host of languages, the four-day LA Congress is the largest ecclesial gathering in the West and American Catholicism's third-biggest annual event.

PHOTOS: Archdiocese of Los Angeles(2,3)