By Emily Drooby
May 6 marked a historic moment at the Cathedral of Christ The King as a socially distanced installation took place in Atlanta, Georgia.
The pews sat empty while Deacon Thomas McGiveny of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church offered prayers to both the sick and those affected by the pandemic as Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer was installed to lead the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“Those I love, those I revere, those I have been asked to tend in His name, are not gathered around me. This Cathedral is empty,” the new archbishop observed.
There were many differences from a traditional installation Mass. Clergy stood a safe distance apart and many watched at home on the livestream.
In addition, the Apostolic Mandate – the decree from the Holy Father that appoints Archbishop Hartmayer to the seat of the Archdiocese of Atlanta – was read on a video by Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre.
This would normally happen inside the Cathedral, but even with all of the changes, the new leader of Atlanta’s Catholic Church was not discouraged.
Archbishop Hartmayer told the small crowd and all those listening on the livestream, “ I wish you were all here, but there will be a time when we will gather together and celebrate as a church.”
Archbishop Hartmayer is originally from Buffalo, New York. He’s been the Bishop of Savannah, Georgia since 2011 and has spent a lot of time working in schools.
He is now the seventh Archbishop of Atlanta, replacing Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who became the head of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. last year.
Atlanta has been without a leader for a year, but National Correspondent for The Tablet and Crux, Christopher White, thinks that could be a factor in holding the ceremony amid the pandemic.
“Pope Francis, the Holy See recognizes that we don’t know how long these restrictions will last,” he explained. “I think they see it as important to go ahead and get him in place, so that he can be there to help rebuild as the diocese begins their recovery effort.”
The new archbishop will continue to meet his new clergy and staff through video conferences for the time being.