New Salt Lake City bishop charts ministry of encounter, dialogue

Bishop Oscar A. Solis presents the apostolic mandate naming him Salt Lake City's bishop during his installation Mass on March 7 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. (CNS photo/J.D. Long-Garcia, The Tidings)Bishop Oscar A. Solis presents the apostolic mandate naming him Salt Lake City's bishop during his installation Mass on March 7 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. (CNS photo/J.D. Long-Garcia, The Tidings)

The new bishop of Salt Lake City expressed his gratitude to God and Pope Francis in his homily during his installation Mass on March 7 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

Bishop Oscar A. Solis also touched on several themes, including the threats to religious freedom, the need to be inclusive of a diverse community, and his goal of having a ministry of encounter and dialogue.


"My dear brothers and sisters, as a faith community, our task continues to live up to the challenge of building and strengthening our inclusive community of faith," Bishop Solis said. "I do not claim to have all the answers. I know you waited so long and have put too much high expectations on me.

"Please may I remind you of my name: It is Oscar Solis, not Jesus Christ. I am not a messiah, but just a humble servant," he continued. "So, I invite you and encourage you to work with me to create this culture of dialogue and encounter our Holy Father Pope Francis exhorts us. But not just any kind of dialogue, but a transformative one that leads us, together, to God."

The Mass was attended by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States; Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Philippines; Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles; Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Bishop Solis' predecessor in Salt Lake City; and Salvador Medialdea, executive secretary of the Philippines.

Bishop Solis, 63, is a native of San Jose City, Philippines. Previously, he served the Archdiocese of Manila and the Diocese of Cabanatuan, both in the Philippines, before coming to the United States in 1984.

Also attending were 37 bishops, numerous clergy and religious from the Diocese of Salt Lake City as well as the Los Angeles Archdiocese, where Bishop Solis had been an auxiliary bishop since 2004 when he was named to head the statewide Utah diocese Jan. 10. The congregation also included representatives of the local ecumenical and interfaith community, government officials and lay Catholics.

Archbishop Pierre read the apostolic mandate appointing Bishop Solis to Salt Lake City. During his comments, he asked the congregation to pray for Bishop Solis, "that his apostolic ministry bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the clergy and faithful being entrusted to his pastoral care, and even to the community at large, especially those hurting materially and spiritually."

Archbishop Pierre also thanked Archbishop Wester "for his eight years of dedicated ministry as the ninth bishop of Salt Lake City," and Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw "for his valued service as diocesan administrator during what has been surely quite a long interim period." Archbishop Wester was named to Santa Fe in 2015.

After the reading of the mandate, Bishop Solis was installed at the cathedral by Archbishop Cordileone to the acclaim of the congregation. The bishop then greeted Catholics representing different areas and ministries of the diocese and representatives of the ecumenical and civic communities.

The previous evening Archbishop Pierre presided over vespers and the rite of reception of the new bishop at the Salt Lake City cathedral. Bishop Solis was the homilist.

Before vespers began, Bishop Solis knocked thrice on the door of the main entrance of the cathedral. The door opened. He entered and was greeted by Msgr. Bircumshaw and Father Martin Diaz, the cathedral rector.

Msgr. Bircumshaw recited the ritual words of welcome: "We pledge to you our support and our praise."

After mounting the steps of the cathedral's ambo to begin his homily, Bishop Solis showed his typical humor with his opening comment. "Now I know why they call this the high Rocky Mountains," he said, to laughter from the congregation, which filled the cathedral.

In his homily, Bishop Solis said he felt blessed to be part of the local church. He expressed his gratitude to God for all his blessings and to Pope Francis "for the confidence he has shown in me by appointing me to be the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City."

"I am truly aware of the sacred responsibility of this office. I am also aware that I will be carrying on the great legacy of my more recent predecessors," he said, naming retired Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, who was Salt Lake City's bishop from 1995 to 2005, and Archbishop Wester, named to head the diocese in 2007.

"And I saw another good predecessor of mine, sitting quietly and laughing at me—Bishop Bill Weigand—who zealously built up the community of this faith that was handed on to them," Bishop Solis said. Retired Bishop Weigand of Sacramento headed the Utah diocese from 1980 to 1994.

Bishop Solis also asked the congregation to pray for him as he assumes his apostolic ministry. "I ask for your prayers, that our loving Lord will allow me to serve humbly, responsibly and faithfully as God's worthy servant."

He closed his homily with another lighthearted moment, saying that since he arrived he has felt the hospitality of the local church, "and so with confidence, humbly, I will say, 'Utah, here I am. I am totally yours. Even with the snow.'"

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