BROOKLYN, N.Y.—A cathedral has importance as the church where the ministry of a bishop is made visible, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said in an address at the Cathedral of St. James in Brooklyn.
Noting that the term “cathedral” is derived from the “cathedra” — or “chair” — of the bishop, he said the placement of the bishop in this church enables people to see “what the purpose of the bishop is.”
Cardinal George said the office of a bishop is to teach, to ensure the availability of valid sacraments and to govern.
Recognizing the principle that the church is where the bishop is, the church becomes “most visible” in the cathedral where the bishop carries out the duties of this office, he said.
“It doesn't matter if some people don't like the bishop,” he said. Whether he is liked personally or not, a bishop still serves as “the place people can come when they want to be one in Christ,” he said.
Cardinal George made his remarks June 4 delivering the annual Compostela Lecture, which was inaugurated by St. James Cathedral in 1997 to mark the 175th anniversary of its founding as a parish church. It was designated a cathedral when the Brooklyn Diocese was established in 1853.
Cathedrals offer a beauty of setting that moves the emotions, mind and will to recognize in visible form the vision of the invisible “new heaven and new earth” and “new Jerusalem” promised in Revelation 21:1-2.
Introduced by Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, Cardinal George addressed “The Cathedral as the Seat of the Episcopal Ministry,” connecting the role of the cathedral to the sacramental principle of transforming material reality.
Although sacraments are available elsewhere, there are moments when they become “most splendidly visible” in cathedrals, he said.
Cathedrals offer a beauty of setting that moves the emotions, mind and will to recognize in visible form the vision of the invisible “new heaven and new earth” and “new Jerusalem” promised in Revelation 21:1-2, he said.
The bishop and the sacraments are not ultimate, but “signs of what is yet to come,” he said.
Cardinal George said cathedrals such as St. James existed “to make the new Jerusalem visible in such a way that we can come to know the invisible.”
Commenting on the role of art, he said cathedrals attract people by their beauty, and that artists created this beauty by transfiguring matter so that it conveyed a sense of the eternal.
But he warned it was possible to become “too much in love with the beauty of a cathedral” and lose awareness of the need to reach out.
Bishops should use cathedrals to respond to the “missionary mandate,” Cardinal George said. A bishop is obligated to reach out to everyone, even if he is aware he will be rejected by some, he said.