With a call to hope and a request of the faithful for pardon, Bishop Leonard Blair celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving Wednesday evening after a decade at the helm of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo.
On Dec. 16, Bishop Blair, 64, becomes the fifth archbishop of Hartford, Conn.
The Mass in Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral occurred 10 years to the day that he was installed as the seventh bishop of Toledo in a 2 1/2-hour ceremony infused with tradition and majesty -- processions by archbishops and bishops from 14 states; and more than 350 priests and deacons.
The Mass of thanksgiving on Wednesday in a comfortably full Rosary Cathedral - Bishop Blair's last public Mass in Toledo - was preceded by a procession of more than 100 priests, retired Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly, and more than three dozen Knights of Columbus in plumed and caped finery.
Two of the readings from Bishop Blair's installation Mass were part of Wednesday's liturgy, including a passage from the Gospel of John from which the bishop took the motto on his coat of arms, in Latin, "Pasce Oves Meas." In the Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, "feed my lambs, tend my sheep." Peter's rehabilitation after having denied to authorities that he knew Jesus, "shows us that the church is not made up of the perfect, but of repentant sinners who know that they cannot save themselves.
"A bishop, too, is keenly aware of his own sinfulness and weakness when the Lord says...'feed my lambs, tend my sheep,'" Bishop Blair said. "And as I take leave of you after 10 years, I ask pardon of anyone whom I may have offended or wounded by what I have done or failed to do as your bishop."
He said that the times in which we live are a great test of hope and include diminished religious faith and practice and "an increasingly secularized world which reduces religion and truth to private opinion." Yet hope does not rest in a perfect world or even a perfect church, but in God, who mysteriously makes all things "service his plan and purpose, which is the triumph of his kingdom, and our triumph to the extent that we are in Christ.
"Having tried to do my best, I give thanks to God for his tender mercies, and I give thanks to God for all of you," Bishop Blair said.
Bishop Blair acknowledged three religious leaders in attendance: Bishop Marcus Lohrman of the northwest Ohio synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Imam Farooq Abo Elzahab of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, and Bishop Alexander Golitzin of the Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America.
Within eight days of Bishop Blair's departure, the college of consultors, made up of eight diocesan priests, will meet to elect an administrator to oversee the diocese until Pope Francis names a successor, said the Rev. Monte Hoyles, chancellor of the diocese.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.