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Utah Catholics open their cathedral and their hearts to new bishop

First Published      Last Updated Mar 07 2017 12:29 pm


Utah welcomes Oscar A. Solis, who is about to become the 10th bishop of the state’s 300,000-plus Catholics.

On a chilly Monday night in Salt Lake City, the bells of the magnificent Cathedral of the Madeleine began to peal as Bishop-elect Oscar A. Solis stepped up to its ornate wooden doors — and knocked three times.

The doors then swung open, in a centuries-old symbol of welcome to the man who Tuesday will become the 10th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Solis, the nation's first Filipino-American bishop, was greeted by Monsignor Colin Bircumshaw, who has been Salt Lake City's interim diocesan administrator since former Bishop John C. Wester departed in spring 2015 to become archbishop of Santa Fe.




After the greeting, Solis kissed the diocese's metal-and-wood crucifix to signify his devotion to Jesus Christ. Next, he received holy water, which he sprinkled on the believers who filled the pews in the 1,000-seat sanctuary on South Temple. Voices of the cathedral's adult choir blended with trumpets and organs to fill the historic space with a joyful noise.

Solis was joined in a procession by Wester, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles; Archbishop Christophe Pierre, U.S. papal nuncio; Utah's former Bishop William K. Weigand; and a half-dozen other priests as they moved up the center aisle.

Solis took a seat on the dais, flanked by Bircumshaw and the Rev. Martin Diaz, rector of the cathedral.

This was Solemn Vespers, a traditional service of prayer, psalms and praise — but without a Mass.

The only person to speak was Solis, who addressed the faithful — including family members who had journeyed from the Philippines, about 100 Catholics from Los Angeles (where Solis has been an auxiliary bishop) and more than 50 priests from his former diocese — in both English and Spanish.

"I am so humbled and honored to have this opportunity to celebrate this vespers with you," he began. "This is a sacred time to praise and honor God."

The new leader thanked his predecessors — retired Archbishop George H. Niederauer (who was not in attendance), Weigand and Wester.

"I am standing on [their] legacy," Solis said, expressing gratitude that Pope Francis had the confidence to appoint him. "We are here to seek God's grace."

The bishop-elect then praised the Beehive State's 300,000-plus Catholics for their hospitality and welcome.

"Utah, here I am," he said with a grin. "I am yours — even with the snow."

A new chapter in the church has begun, Solis said. "I am grateful to God for this missionary opportunity, praying we recognize our common humanity and work for the common good ... to build his kingdom in love and justice."

After more hymns, Pierre offered a blessing on the attendees and the white-robed priests and bishops slowly walked back down the aisle — to a burst of applause.

Many visitors took group photos of themselves in Utah's treasured cathedral, before going to the basement for a reception to greet Solis — a man they already have come to revere.

Tuesday's installation service begins at 2 p.m. at the cathedral.

pstack@sltrib.com

Twitter: @religiongal

 

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