Before talking about the consecration of a bishop in the Catholic Church, we ought to remember that Ordination (Holy Orders) is one of the Seven Sacraments. Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest or bishop and is enabled to minister in Christ’s name and that of the Church. There are three levels of the Sacrament of Holy Orders: diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, and the rites of ordination differs according to the three levels, although some elements remain the same. What then happens during the ordination of a Bishop?
Who is a Catholic bishop? “Bishop” is the title of an ecclesiastical dignitary who possesses the fullness of priesthood to lead a diocese (particular territory of the Catholic Church) as its chief pastor, in due submission to the primacy of the Pope. The Letter to the Hebrews helps us to understand the origin of priesthood: “And no one takes this honour upon himself. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was. (Heb 5, 4). The bishop, who has been elected and appointed by the Pope, has a three-fold ministry of prophet, priest and shepherd.
RITE OF CONSECRATION OF A BISHOP It is important to first of all note that, the Code of Canon Law states that: “The minister of sacred ordination is a consecrated bishop” (Can. 1012). It therefore follows that a Bishop is consecrated by a fellow Bishop who serves as the Principal Consecrator. Can. 1014 further says that “Unless the Apostolic See has granted a dispensation, the principal bishop consecrator in an episcopal consecration is to be joined by at least two consecrating bishops.” The ordination rite for a Bishop appears quite different from that of a Priest and a Deacon. The rite of Ordination of a Bishop is as follows: A. Presentation of the bishop-elect The Bishop-elect is presented to the consecrating bishop by two assisting priests of the Diocese, who will ask the consecrating bishop to ordain the bishop-elect in the name of the Diocese.
B. Reading of the apostolic letter (the Papal Bull) The official letter of appointment by the Pope is read aloud by the Apostolic Nuncio (if present) or the Diocesan Administrator and testifies to the desire on the part of the Vicar of Christ that a man receive the third and final “degree” of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, namely, the “Episcopate”.
C. Assent: After the document is read aloud, all present give their assent to the election of the Bishop by saying: “Thanks be to God.” D. Making of promises: After the homily, the bishop-elect is asked to give his firm promise to nine aspects of his role and duty as Bishop, including the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, to guard and uphold the Catholic faith, to build up and guide the Body of Christ, to be welcoming and merciful to all in need, and to be like the Good Shepherd in his care for the People of God entrusted to him.
E. Litany of the Saints: The principal consecrator invites all the faithful to pray for the bishop-elect, who then prostrates himself as a sign of his unworthiness for the office to be assumed and his dependence upon God and the Prayers of the Christian community, while the entire congregation sings the Litany of the Saints. F. Laying on of hands and prayer of ordination: Following the tradition of the Apostles, the three consecrating bishops lay hands upon the head of the bishop-elect as an outward sign of invoking of the Holy Spirit. And, as a symbol of the bishop-elect’s submission to the Gospel of Christ, the Book of the Gospels is placed above his head while the Prayer of Consecration is offered by the presiding Archbishop. And at this point, the Bishop-elect becomes a Bishop.
G. Anointing and investiture: The Principal Consecrator anoints the head of the new bishop with the Oil of Sacred Chrism, hands him the Book of the Gospels, places the ring on his finger, the mitre on his head and gives him the crosier or pastoral staff.
H. Installation and seating of the
new bishop: The new Bishop is led to the cathedra (bishop’s chair) by the consecrating bishops. He then becomes the Presider for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
I. Kiss of peace: Before the Mass continues, the Rite of Ordination ends with the kiss of peace from the principal consecrator and all the other bishops who are present.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INSIGNIAS OF A BISHOP After the anointing, the New Bishop is handed over the symbols of the Episcopate, they include:
A. The episcopal ring: The Episcopal Ring is symbolic of his fidelity to and nuptial bond with the Church.
B. The Mitre: The Mitre is worn only for liturgical celebrations. The significance of the mitre comes from the Book of Exodus, 39: 27-31 and Leviticus 8:7-9. There is a clear significance that the one who wears it is ‘Sacred to the Lord,’ is consecrated, and set aside for the service of God’s people.
C. The Crozier: The Crozier, shepherd’s crook, is a symbol of the governing office of the diocesan shepherd, the Bishop. The Bishop bears the crozier as shepherd of his flock, the community under his canonical jurisdiction. By ordination to the episcopacy, bishops receive the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and become successors of the Apostles. Through this Sacrament, a bishop belongs to the college of bishops and serves as the visible head or pastor of the local Church entrusted to his care. As a college, the bishops have care and concern for the apostolic mission of all the Churches in union with and under the authority of the Pope—the head of the college of bishops, the Bishop of
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