Atlanta’s new archbishop to be installed — at a distance

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FILE – In this March 16, 2019, file photo, St. Patrick’s Day Parade grand marshal Gerald “Jerry” Counihand, center, and his wife, Lisa Harrison Counihand, right, stand after being blessed by Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, left, at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Ga. Catholic leaders say Hartmayer, Atlanta’s new archbishop, will be installed Wednesday, May 6, in a Mass that will blaze a new path through old traditions. Inside the cathedral, some of the priests and others in attendance will look on from a choir loft so as not to violate social distancing practices. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)

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ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s new archbishop will be installed Wednesday in a Mass that will blaze a new path through old traditions, Catholic leaders say.

Inside the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, a small number of the priests and others in attendance will look on from a choir loft so as not to violate social distancing practices. The handful of others in attendance will be seated strategically in the church’s main naive, well away from the alter, Deacon Dennis Dorner said Tuesday.

Instead of hugs, priests will give applause 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 the apostolic nuncio, the Pope’s representative. He would present Hartmayer with the papal bull, the 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,” Dorner said.

In normal times, priests would come up to the alter and greet the new archbishop. But 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. It will also be 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 in March named Hartmayer, 68, to lead the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Since then, Hartmayer has been able to hold video calls with some of the priests and others he will be working with. He’s also 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.

Hartmayer replaces Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who took over as head of the church in Washington, D.C., in the aftermath of the 2018 explosion of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

Hartmayer, a Conventual Franciscan, has been bishop of Savannah, Georgia, since 2011.

The Buffalo, New York, native has worked as a guidance counselor, school director and teacher in Catholic schools in Baltimore, New York and Florida.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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