Icy weather fails to halt archbishop's installation

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Archbishop Raymond Burke assumed his new role leading the St. Louis archdiocese Monday in a cathedral ceremony where he spoke of holding true to Catholic values in a time that often doesn't remember God.

Burke, assigned to the new post Dec. 2 after serving as bishop in La Crosse, Wis., will now direct one of the nation's oldest archdioceses and its roughly 550,000 Roman Catholics.

In the Cathedral Basilica -- which boasts a Byzantine interior with more than 40 million pieces of glass mosaic depicting religious scenes-- Burke was installed as the region's eighth archbishop in a Mass featuring prayers and processions, tolling bells and singing choirs, and an inclusive spirit -- with readings in foreign languages, a translation of the Mass in sign language, and prayers read by everyone from a city police officer to a local family.

Icy weather in St. Louis delayed for 15 minutes the start of Monday's ceremony and kept away a few dignitaries who planned to attend. Still, guests from around the nation included Cardinal Justin Rigali, now leader of the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the man Burke replaces. Rigali headed the St. Louis archdiocese for nearly a decade.

To officially install Burke as archbishop, Monsignor Leopoldo Girelli read a message from Pope John Paul II. Burke then was formally seated in the cathedra -- the chair of the cathedral -- making his appointment official.

In his homily, Burke noted that the pope was in St. Louis five years ago to the day, and said the pope came "to teach us how to live more fully in Christ, how to cooperate more fully with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

"He came to guide and help us in carrying out the new evangelization, the teaching of the faith, with a new energy and enthusiasm that is required in an age that is forgetful of God and even hostile to his plan for our salvation."

Burke spoke of his own apostolic mission, his call to share the teachings of Jesus Christ. He described a network of bishops, priests, religious and lay people joining together in their work. "Coming to you as your new archbishop, I urge you to draw close to the heart of Jesus," he said.

He stressed the sanctity of all life. He spoke of the importance of families with married parents built with "procreative love" who then work to help children find their vocation, or life's calling. He asked Catholics to attend Mass more often than once a week, if possible. He asked them for other displays of their faith, like the image of Jesus' Sacred Heart in their homes and visits to eucharistic adoration, or times when what believers consider the Body of Christ is displayed in church for prayer and reflection.

Burke arrives with a conservative reputation. Weeks after the announcement of his new post, Burke published a notice in his Wisconsin diocesan newspaper -- similar to letters he'd privately sent in the past -- telling Catholic politicians in the diocese who support abortion rights and euthanasia not to receive Holy Communion. His notice ordered priests not to give it to them.

The Vatican issued a directive last year that bishops admonish Catholic politicians who publicly disagree with the church on basic beliefs. Burke has taken the abortion part of the Vatican document further than any other bishop.

His Wisconsin diocese reported strong support from parishioners there, and Burke was praised by anti-abortion activists, including the American Life League which created an ad campaign called "The Way of La Crosse."

But several Catholic lawmakers in Wisconsin and Missouri said such a directive could be deeply problematic for elected officials.

"We as legislators have never faced anything like that from an archbishop or bishop in the state of Missouri," Missouri state Sen. Steve Stoll has said. The Festus Democrat said many citizens would question electing someone who would change their positions due to religious pressure.

In 2002, Burke pulled diocesan support from a hunger walk because the sponsoring agency could not guarantee that no funds raised would be used for birth control in developing countries.

He also warned a church-based AIDS ministry in La Crosse that year not to participate in an AIDS fund-raising walk, claiming that some participating groups promoted homosexuality.

Burke studied at the American seminary and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, was ordained a priest in a St. Peter's Basilica and was elevated to bishop in a ceremony presided over by Pope John Paul II.

Adrienne Walker, 21, of Detroit attended the installation as she's working in St. Louis for a year as a Catholic volunteer. She called Burke's positions brave and courageous. "He wants to bring people into the light about how to live their lives," she said.

In St. Louis, Burke inherits an archdiocese that has faced dozens of lawsuits accusing some clergy of sexual misconduct.

Leaders of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group for victims of abuse by priests, have criticized Rigali's handling of the sex abuse issue and have urged Burke to be more pro-active in removing abusive priests and aiding victims.

Burke did not directly speak about the clergy sex abuse scandal at Mass.

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