Archbishop Francis Leo incenses the altar at the Mass of Installation in the Archdiocese of Toronto, March 25, 2023. Michael Swan

Installation Mass filled with ‘theological richness’

  • March 30, 2023

Installing a new bishop is a very big deal. And every big deal in a Catholic diocese calls for a big liturgy.

“The Catholic Church lives in a world of symbols,” explained Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College liturgist and Christianity and Culture professor Michael O’Connor. 

“It’s a very symbolic world that we inhabit. We use things like mitres and croziers and thrones and palliums and liturgical celebration to understand who we are and where we are going. These kinds of gestures have a theological richness.”

It might surprise some that there’s no meticulously detailed, standard outline for the liturgical celebration of receiving or installing a new bishop, particularly in the case where the bishop is already ordained and being transferred from another diocese, as is the case with Archbishop Francis Leo moving from the auxiliary bishop role in Montreal to Archbishop of Toronto. It’s left to the bishop and his advisors to come up with an appropriate celebration that honours local tradition.

The ceremony that accompanied the installation of Archbishop Francis Leo at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, was taken mainly from two liturgical books, the Roman Pontifical and the Ceremonial of Bishops. It was the first time in 16 years that Toronto has seen such rituals, and they marked an important occasion in the history of the archdiocese.

“It’s the beginning of a new relationship,” said O’Connor. 

In some ways, it’s like buying a new house. When the new homeowner receives the keys, it’s official. 

“The two things that constitute his installation are the reading of the Apostolic Letter and then his taking his seat in the cathedra — his throne,” said O’Connor. “That makes him begin his role.”

When those two elements are complete, Leo, Toronto’s auxiliary bishops, the priests of the archdiocese as well as deacons immediately begin to celebrate the Mass.

“He is beginning a relationship with the diocese which centres on his presiding over the Eucharist, in which the local Church is made present and manifest,” said O’Connor.

Before the canonical administrative act of reading Pope Francis’ letter which appoints Leo as the symbol of unity for the Church in Toronto, the new archbishop was greeted at the cathedral doors by St. Michael’s rector Fr. Frank Portelli and presented with a crucifix.

“The greeting is in terms of, ‘Welcome to your new home and share with us devotion to Christ crucified,’ ” said O’Connor.

Led up the aisle by the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic and outgoing Toronto Archbishop Cardinal Thomas Collins, Leo was presented to the assembly in the church. Jurkovic asked Leo if he will accept the Pope’s mandate. The legal document that appoints him to head the archdiocese was presented to the College of Consultors and then to the people.

Finally, the new archbishop took his seat and was presented with the crozier — the symbol of his pastoral authority.

The Catholic Church has been installing bishops almost since the beginning. It has always been an opportunity for the bishop to formally accept responsibility and for the people of a diocese, clergy and lay, to offer their allegiance and support.

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