ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s new archbishop will be installed Wednesday in a socially-distant Mass, adapting some Catholic traditions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Inside the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, a small number of priests will look on from a choir loft, while a handful of others in attendance will be seated strategically in the church's main nave, well away from the altar, Deacon Dennis Dorner said.
And instead of hugs, priests will applaud as Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer becomes the new leader of the Catholic Church in Atlanta.
“One of the challenges was just keeping the tradition but figuring out how to do that without having all the people there who are typically there," said Maureen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Typically, the cathedral would be packed for such an occasion. Guests would include Pope Francis' representative, the papal nuncio, who would present Hartmayer with the papal bull, a document inscribed in Latin appointing Hartmayer to his post. Rather than traveling to Atlanta, the nuncio will appear by video for that portion of Wednesday's service.
“We would typically have a full cathedral, a couple of hundred priests," who would come up to the altar to greet the new archbishop. In the midst of a pandemic, “that's just not going to happen," Dorner said.
However, the Mass will be live-streamed for the faithful, and aired on the Catholic cable networks EWTN and The Catholic Television Network starting at 12:30 p.m.
“The end result will still be the same and wonderful," Dorner said. “While we won't have a full crowd in the cathedral, we'll have a lot of people obviously watching the live-stream," he said.
Pope Francis named Hartmayer, the bishop of Savannah, Georgia, since 2011, to the lead the Atlanta diocese in March.
As a Conventual Franciscan, Hartmayer, 68, pledged to serve his vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in service to society. The Buffalo, New York, native worked as a guidance counselor, school director and teacher in Catholic schools in Baltimore, New York and Florida.
He replaces Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who took over in Washington, D.C., amid leadership changes in response to the global church's sex abuse and cover-up scandals.
Hartmayer has held video calls with some of the priests and others he will be working with, and he's been able to have some one-on-one, personal meetings.
“Fortunately he has a large conference room with a very long table, and they can separate from one another," Dorner said.