Paterson's Bishop Arrives, Preaching and Politicking|
By Robert Hanley
The New York Times [Paterson NJ]
July 7, 2004
PATERSON, N.J., July 6 - With a vow to uphold the Catholic Church's teachings against abortion and euthanasia, and a pledge to protect children from evil, the Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli was installed on Tuesday as the bishop of the Diocese of Paterson.
Bishop Serratelli, 60, a biblical scholar and seminary professor, said in his homily that his mission was to preach Christ's Gospel, and he urged all Catholics, clergy and lay members alike, to do likewise. He called the Gospel the way to justice and to peace. "It is the very salvation of the world," Bishop Serratelli said.
The installation ceremony blended grand solemnity and church tradition with touches of tenderness and thoughtfulness and some curbside politicking. The day was a mix of worshipers singing in Spanish outside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and hundreds of priests and bishops in vestments of white and cream walking into the cathedral as a choir sang processional hymns in Latin.
Bishop Serratelli, walking alone to heavy applause at the end of the long line, paused before reaching the altar, leaned into a front-row pew and kissed his mother, Eva, 86.
Minutes earlier, the new bishop had lagged behind outside the cathedral and walked across the street to shake hands with about 200 people who apparently had not been able to get tickets for the installation but had come to greet him. They chanted and waved palm fronds before Bishop Serratelli arrived.
As he walked toward the cathedral's entrance, he broke away and went across Main Street to personally greet many. They responded with cheering and clapping.
As Bishop Serratelli mingled with the well-wishers, two of the day's guests, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, and the Rev. John J. Myers, archbishop of Newark, also broke away from the procession and joined him in the hand-shaking along the barricade.
Bishop Serratelli, a native of Newark, was ordained in Rome in 1968 and spent much of his first decade as a priest studying there for advanced degrees in Scripture and theology. Later, he spent 27 years teaching Scripture and biblical languages at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University.
For the last two years, he has served as the vicar general of the Newark Archdiocese, administering its day-to-day affairs under Archbishop Myers. In brief remarks on Tuesday, the archbishop called Bishop Serratelli a scholar and a shepherd and said his "love for Holy Scripture" will enrich the life of churches in the Paterson Diocese.
In his new position, Bishop Serratelli succeeds Bishop Frank J. Rodimer, who is nearly 77 and is retiring after serving 27 years as the head of the diocese. It is a small but diverse diocese, with 111 churches in the cities and suburbs of Passaic County, the middle-class and wealthy communities of Morris County and the rural towns of Sussex County. About one-third of its 388,000 Catholics are Spanish-speaking.
In the last two years, the diocese has been buffeted by the sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the church in the United States. Supporters of abuse victims in the diocese have said they were disenchanted with Bishop Rodimer's response to the scandal and expressed hopes that Bishop Serratelli would be more sensitive and responsive.
The newly installed bishop did not refer directly to the scandal in his homily. But he devoted part of it to the story of an 11-year-old saint in the Catholic Church, Maria Goretti, who was assaulted and fatally stabbed by a neighbor in her Italian village in 1902. Before the girl died, she forgave her assailant.
Bishop Serratelli called her a "martyr for purity."
He said: "Her holy life and her tragic death challenge us to renew our efforts to safeguard our young - to protect them from insidious evil that would rob them of their innocence and scar them for life."
The bishop noted that her killer served 30 years in prison and was reformed. In 1937, the girl's mother, in a final act of forgiveness, went to communion with the killer in a village church, Bishop Serratelli said.
Associates say Bishop Serratelli is a strict adherent to orthodox church teachings but is not confrontational in his preaching.
He said his new duties would focus on bringing "to others the whole truth of the Gospel," adding: "We are vigorous for the sake of the common good in our respect for all human life, from conception to natural death. For only a society that safeguards the fundamental right to life for all will stand.
"We are unswerving in our support of family life. And we are unrelenting in the struggle for all God's children, especially the poor and the marginalized, to have their rightful place at the banquet of life."