DENVER — In his role as Denver’s new shepherd, Archbishop Samuel Aquila told the archdiocese that his hope for the community is that they follow Christ above all else.
“My vision ... is the same vision that was given to us 2,000 years ago,” Archbishop Aquila said during the homily of his installation Mass July 18.
“That is that Christ is always to come first,” he told the hundreds gathered in the Basilica Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “And we are to proclaim this Gospel; we are to do whatever he tells us.”
He urged locals to not view their faith in Christ “as a private act,” but as a public witness of “choosing to stand with the Lord, so as to live with him.”
A former Denver resident, Archbishop Aquila was installed as the fifth archbishop in the same cathedral where he was ordained a priest in 1976.
His appointment closes a 10-month vacancy in Denver, which was left when Archbishop Charles Chaput was assigned to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. An attendee of the event, Archbishop Chaput was given a standing ovation when publicly thanked by his successor.
Other guests at the installation Mass included more than 400 priests, former Denver archbishop Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, U.S. apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganò, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
During his homily, Archbishop Aquila told the packed cathedral that Catholics should live out the call to follow Christ by declaring “the dignity of the human person and human life” and by refusing actions that are in violation of natural law.
Specifically, he said that the people of the Archdiocese of Denver need to oppose the federal contraception mandate.
Announced in January by the Obama administration, the federal rule will require religious groups to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates employers’ beliefs.
“If we truly believe in the dignity of the human person and human life,” the archbishop said, “we must stand opposed to the violation of conscience.”
He added that with defending the dignity of the human person also comes the defense of traditional marriage, because it “preserves the dignity of who we are created” as men and women.”
The new archbishop then acknowledged all the men and women religious in attendance, calling them “a complete counterwitness to everything that this world today stands for,” due to their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
“You are a counterwitness to the evils and rampant rejection of the dignity of human sexuality and of chastity,” he told them. “You are a contradiction to the secularism that says you can live life and be happy without God.”
Laypeople, the archbishop noted, have the crucial role of living authentically Christian lives in the midst of the world.
“If you are truly to be disciples,” he said, “you are not to be hidden in the world, but, rather, to be a bright light to the world.”
All Catholics in the archdiocese, he said, have a call to have “attitudes of docility and receptivity,” as well as “trust, kindness and obedience.”