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EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF MONS. PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER

HOMILY OF CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO

Vatican Basilica
Saturday, 13 March 2004*

 

 

We are in Lent, a time of spiritual preparation for the Lord's Passover. In the austere environment of this liturgical season, we celebrate the rite of Episcopal Ordination of Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, called by the Holy Father to form part of the College of Bishops and destined to Burundi as Apostolic Nuncio, where he is to bring forth fruits in the service of our Holy Church. In that Land he must announce the Gospel of Christ with the severe invitation that has been proclaimed today, an invitation so timely for Burundi in the present historic moment of its life. He must repeat to all: "If you do not convert, you will all perish in the same way" (Lk 13: 5).

One day, a long time ago, young Paul Richard heard the voice of the Lord calling him to follow him and he generously responded "yes", becoming a priest of the Church. Today, through me, the Lord asks him to live his ministry on a higher step of the priesthood, that of the episcopacy. The finality is the same always, that of continuing in this world the work of Christ the Good Shepherd.

I do not intend to dedicate time to explain today's rite. It is very eloquent and speaks directly to all of us. Just as the Apostles did to their first successors, I will impose my hands upon his head. So also will the Bishops here present, saying the essential words of the rite:

"So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy apostles, who founded the Church in every place to be your temple for the unceasing glory and praise of your name" (Ordination Prayer).

This 2,000-year-old rite is enriched by a series of symbols that underline the Bishop's mission. The Gospel will be placed on his head to show that we must all derive from it inspiration for our personal and our apostolic life. I will place a ring on the finger of the new Bishop to remind him of his duty to be faithful to the Church, the Spouse of Christ. On his head I will place the mitre, so that all may know his Episcopal dignity. Then I will place in his hands the pastoral staff, inviting him to lead with fatherly love God's holy people.

These are eloquent signs by which the liturgy brings us to understand, respect and love him who has been chosen by the Lord to be a successor of the Apostles for building up the Holy Church of God.
The symbol of lying prostrate on the ground while the Litany of the saints is chanted reminds us that everything comes from God, that we are mere creatures before him and that we trust in his grace.

The new Bishop will not carry out his mission in a particular diocese as generally do residential Bishops, Coadjutor or Auxiliary Bishops. He will collaborate with the Holy Father, Pastor of the Universal Church. The pastoral mission is nevertheless the same, at the service of the spread of God's Kingdom in the world.

It is true that Bishop Paul also bears the ancient title of the Church of Hodelm in Scotland, now suppressed. This corresponds to the tradition of keeping alive the historic memory of old Christian communities; but we know that what is essential comes from the fact that the new Bishop is included in the College of Bishops, to which Christ has entrusted the mission of continuing the work of the Apostolic College until the end of time. During the time of Jesus, the Apostles were 12. Now there are more than 4,600 Bishops, of whom 2,600 are in charge of a diocese; the other 2,000 are titular Bishops or retired Bishops. It is the same fire of Pentecost which impels them to announce to today's world the Kingdom of God and to bring to the people of our time the Word and the Sacraments of salvation.

Our dear Monsignor Paul is preparing to leave for Bujumbura, capital of Burundi. The Country has suffered so much on account of the well-known events of recent years. The Church there has been lacerated by disharmony among its sons and is now working hard to promote reconciliation and forgiveness. Saint Paul said 2,000 years ago that in the Church "there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you", concluded the Apostle, "are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3: 28). Today all Christians must know that there is no longer Hutu or Tutsi, no longer African or European, because we are all children of the same Father who is in Heaven.

This is precisely the directive that Pope John Paul II entrusted to the people of Burundi during the Visit he made to the Country in September 1990. On that occasion, the Holy Father said clearly to the Authorities and the people: "Strengthen your unity, not with resignation or diffidence, but root it solidly through reconciliation and forgiveness".

Aware of the seriousness of the local situation, the Pope added: "For some this may seem insurmountable because the wounds are still fresh. How can one forget? Your full reconciliation does not consist of forgetting the past. You should look at it in truth, but you must come together again and overcome together what has divided you and so construct a new unity".

These are words which still hold their full value.

Inspired by these evangelical principles, our beloved late Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Michael Courtney, worked tirelessly in Burundi. Like every Representative of the Pope, he made his contribution to the progress of the Church in the Country and to the relations with the civil Authorities so as to establish a rapport between the Church and the State for the good of the people.

As happens during the Olympic Games, now the torch passes to new hands, the hands of our dear Monsignor Paul Gallagher.

We pray for him and we will always be close to him in solidarity. The Pope is close to him, and through me he warmly gives him his Blessing. His own dear Archdiocese is close to him, worthily represented here by its Pastor, the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool.

From Heaven the Saints, whom we now invoke in their own Litany, will intercede for him.


*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n11 p.9.

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