As modern as the current Pope may be, this is one papal bull, or sealed letter, that is too important to email.
The Latin document, arriving by diplomatic bag from Rome, will form the heart of Wednesday evening’s installation of Sydney’s ninth Catholic Archbishop, a ceremony based on more than1000 years of tradition, solemnity, celebration and – if some messages from the Vatican are any indicator – progress.
Anthony Fisher, chosen by Pope Francis to succeed Cardinal Pell, will arrive at St Mary’s Cathedral as Parramatta’s Bishop and leave as the metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney after the rite of installation and a mass to mark his office as a leader of Australian Catholics.
Watched by 2000 religious, civic and political leaders, including the Governor of NSW David Hurley and NSW Premier Mike Baird, and all 40 present and former Australian bishops, as well as friends and family, the first ever Dominican Archbishop of Sydney will take his seat of office after a symbolically rich ceremony. It will include a guard of honour and indigenous welcome on arrival, and a change of dress in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Removing his bishop’s “choir dress”, he will step into Marian vestments, made in Australia from European liturgical silk and gifted to the cathedral by a local family. He will wear the ring and pectoral cross, and carry the crozier that belonged to the first metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding, who was in office from 1842 to 1877.
The papal bull will be read by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, confirming the authenticity of the appointment. The Holy See will be informed when the installation has taken place.
But for all the protocol, the Archbishop-elect says he would like to be known as a “man of the people” and admits to “mixed feelings” about the important day.
“I’m excited but I’m also quite daunted, a bit intimated,” he told Fairfax Media. “It’s a very big role, a great responsibility – it is at any time in history, but now especially so.”
Pressures on the church reach far and wide, including dwindling congregations, the ongoing commission into child sex abuse and Pope Francis’ pushes for tolerance and openness regarding gay marriage and sex.
“I think what has been revealed by the scandals from the past and the failure to deal with some of them, has, I think, been humiliating for many Catholics,” he said.
“Clearly some of these things were dealt with very badly and I really hope we have learnt from this experience.”
As a man whose love of music runs deep – alongside opera, he is a “bit of a Les Miserables tragic” he says – he has chosen scores which both revel in and speak of the grandeur of the moment. An informal welcome in song by Catholic school children is followed by choices including Summae Trinitati set to music by contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan, and the Australian composition In Faith and Hope and Love by Richard Connolly and James Phillip McAuley.
While his jewels on the night will have to be returned to the Cathedral’s safe, Archbishop Anthony will soon receive a ring, cross and crozier that are being made using his new coat of arms, designed with an heraldic historian and incorporating the symbol of the archdiocese of Sydney and the arms of the Order of Friars Preachers.
He has elected to keep the motto he used in Parramatta, “Speaking the truth in love” – words that come with no small amount of significance for a Catholic church in the spotlight.
• Anthony Fisher will arrive at St Mary’s Cathedral wearing the “choir dress” of a bishop before changing into Marian vestments, plain white and purple dress made in Australia from European liturgical silk and donated to the cathedral by a local family.
• He will wear the episcopal ring and pectoral cross and hold the crozier, or pastoral staff, that belonged to the first metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding, 1842–1877.
• His music choices for the ceremony include Summae Trinitati set to music by contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan, the Te Deum of Tomas Luis de Victoria and the serene polyphony of the Missa Te Deum laudamus by Palestrina. Australian compositions include the hymn In faith and hope and love by Richard Connolly and James Phillip MacAuley.
• A papal bull, or letter from the Pope, will be read by the Apostolic Nuncio, confirming the authenticity of the appointment. The Holy See will be informed when the installation has taken place.
• Mass will be followed by a reception at Cathedral House, Archbishop Fisher’s new residence.
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