The Most Rev. Roger M. Mahony, the fourth Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, was empowered Wednesday to take charge of the nation's largest archdiocese in a ceremony at a local seminary.
The brief ceremony in Mission Hills served as a prelude to the formal installation that will take place tonight during a Mass attended by hundreds of religious, government and civic dignitaries in St. Vibiana's Cathedral downtown.
The ceremony Wednesday at Our Lady Queen of Angels High School Seminary was followed by a dinner and reception at which Mahony officially met for the first time with more than 800 of the 1,313 priests in the sprawling three-county archdiocese.
A dozen women, including five nuns, representing the Southern California chapter of the National Assn. of Religious Women, appeared in the driveway of the seminary to protest the fact that only men were invited to the empowering ceremony and reception. They handed out printed invitations to a wine-and-cheese reception adjacent to the dining room in which the dinner was held.
They offered cheese, pretzels and wine to a few of the priests who emerged briefly after the ceremony. But they reluctantly retreated to the parking lot and ultimately departed after Father Pat Ziemann, vice rector of the seminary, told them Mahony "would prefer you not stay."
Margaret Arnold, an Eagle Rock lay woman and member of the group, said she felt strongly that women should have been included. "This is the beginning of the archbishop's installation," she pointed out, "but the hierarchy is made up entirely of men and the new archbishop is beginning his ministry exclusively among men."
Mahony said he neither saw nor talked to the women, but stressed that a special Mass on Saturday will be conducted for the religious brothers and sisters of the community.
"If we had a cathedral that would hold everyone," he said, "we could have met with everyone at one time."
During the ceremony inside, Mahony presented his credentials to church officials. The new archbishop, a priest for 23 years and formerly the bishop of Stockton, offered the Apostolic Letter of Appointment by Pope John Paul II to the board of consultors of the archdiocese. The document was then signed by Msgr. John Rawden, chancellor of the archdiocese, and the archdiocesan seal was affixed.
The act legally transferred power to Mahony to exercise the "episcopal ministry in his new see," according to Al Antczak, editor of the archdiocesan newspaper and the only member of the print media allowed to witness the ceremony.
The rite of reception and installation of the new archbishop at 7:30 tonight will begin at the entrance to the 109-year-old cathedral at 2nd and Main streets. Mahony will be welcomed by Cardinal Timothy Manning, 75, retiring archbishop of Los Angeles.
After the formal procession of clergy has entered the 1,300-seat sanctuary, Archbishop Pio Laghi, the papal ambassador to the United States, will read the Pope's letter authorizing Mahony to take charge of the archdiocese. The new archbishop will then be escorted to the archbishop's chair by Manning and Laghi and presented with a silver crosier, or pastoral staff, that is symbolic of his office as shepherd of the flock.
Cardinals Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago, John J. O'Connor of New York, Bernard F. Law of Boston, John Krol of Philadelphia and Pio Taofano of Samoa will attend the ceremony, as well as about 80 bishops and archbishops from the United States and other countries. William Wilson, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, and state and local officials will also attend.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles includes 2.6 million Catholics living in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.