Archbishop Charles Chaput took his position as Philadelphia’s new Catholic spiritual leader Thursday in an installation ceremony.
Onlookers gathered in front of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, traveling from as far as Virginia and Connecticut. Some wielded picket signs, others carried instruments and sang songs of praise.
“I feel it is important for us to be out here so the new archbishop sees the support he has from all parts of the church,” said Maria Genstorfer, 23, of Plainfield, N.J. Along with many of those gathered, Genstorfer is a member of Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic organization that emphasizes evangelizing and service.
“We also are here to support the diocese. Many feel that the church is dead and full of old people,” said Nick Boynton, 31. “But most of our members are young. They could be out doing anything in the world, but they’re here today.”
Chaput was previously the Archbishop of Denver and succeeds Cardinal Justin Rigali, who, at 75, has reached the Vatican-favored age of retirement.
“The Catholic Church is an institution that needs support,” said Mark Pennington, who runs a transitional living house in Bristol. “I’m here to pray for the archbishop and for the city of Philadelphia.”
“It’s important to live life helping, not walking around with signs saying someone else should help.”
Outside the ceremony in the rain, members of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition and Road to Recovery, Inc. carried signs bearing names and pictures of priest sex abuse victims.
“[Chaput] is a step backward because he’s more of the same,” said Robert Hoatson of Newark, N.J., a priest permanently suspended from practicing in 2005 for protesting. “If there is no progress, there’s regression.”
“When he was in Denver, he opposed legislation that would give sex abuse victims their time in court,” Hoatson said. “There are two bills now in the Pennsylvania legislature that I know he will not support. He will put millions into opposing them. He’s not here to change corruption into compassion or support victims. He’s here to tow the party line.”