Tuesday, May 21, 2019

In the Capital, A "Change of Era"

WASHINGTON – Anytime one of American Catholicism’s “Big Six” posts changes hands, the moment has an outsize significance.

Yet more than any such move in recent memory, the process leading up to today has captured the wider imagination... and that was even before Rome responded with a watershed choice.

At 71, Wilton Gregory has returned to center stage to complete the job he began not only as the USCCB’s lead healer amid the crisis of 2002, but the work that stretches back to his first diocese – Belleville, where he inherited one of the nation’s first full-scale abuse eruptions in 1993. Nonetheless, even for the history of becoming the first African-American to take up one of the marquee seats of the country’s largest religious body, not to mention the intense focus on this capital church amid another season of scandals, his arrival at the helm of this 850,000-member fold is still less an exercise in damage control than it is the prospect of Pastoral Governance 101: how to lead a vibrant yet polarized people in the age of Francis and Trump.

And today, in the Stateside church’s biggest house, the master-class begins.

Sure, after an episcopal ministry that’s lasted more than half his life, all of three and a half years remain until the Pope's most significant US pick reaches the retirement age of 75. But to paraphrase a line that’s been used about the one who sent him here, five years of Wilt will arguably have more impact than 20 of practically anyone else – as one of his longtime confreres on the bench put the mood among the conference, for taking on this roiled, complex charge at this point in his run, “He is a hero to us.”

That is, again.

Against that intense yet hopeful backdrop, with eight cardinals, some 50 bishops and 300 priests set to be on hand in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – and busloads of Black Catholics coming from far afield to witness the moment – here’s a livefeed of Gregory’s Mass of Installation as Washington’s Seventh Archbishop, starting at 1.30pm Eastern:

...and to follow along, a copy of the 32-page worship aid.

As ever, more to come.