The post below recounts my experience in my first visit to Biloxi, Mississippi for the installation of a friend as the third bishop. There is another hopefully amusing story to accompany the Monday installation. The papal nuncio was present as he generally is for the ordination of bishops who will head dioceses in the United States and their installations. Archbishop Pietro Sambi serves in this important position currently and he is simultaneously the eyes and ears of the Holy Father in this country, a representative of the State of Vatican City to the government of the United States of ambassadorial status, and a great help to the bishops of the United States in regular, commonplace, and sometimes not so commonplace communications with the Holy See and its offices.
At this particular installation on Monday, the Archbishop had to announce to the assembled, that the “bull” of appointment had not yet arrived in its original form at his office for presentation prior to the installation of the new bishop. The “bull” is the official parchment in Latin which announces the appointment by the pope of a new bishop and is required for the authenticity of the appointment. It contains a wax seal of the Pope and for centuries has been presented to those in charge of the diocese during the vacancy (the Administrator and the College of Consultors). The Archbishop drew a good laugh when he s
aid that the “bull” had not yet arrived and then a second good laugh when he said that so many new bishops were being made that the Holy See could not keep up with the demand for “bulls.” The installation, of course, continued because the Archbishop had a translation of the “bull” and also has the canonical power to install without the necessary documents until such time as they arrive and everything becomes kosher again.
Now the story. In the late ’80′s a new diocese in Colorado was formed and an auxiliary bishop from Denver was appointed its first bishop. The Diocese was Colorado Springs and the new bishop was Richard Hanifen. At the precise moment of the installation, the official “bull” having arrived, no one could find it – anywhere. With a mixture of consternation and some humor, the then nuncio, the late Cardinal Pio Laghi got up at the appropriate time and announced the “bull has been lost.” Later at the homily at the Mass of installation, the new Bishop Hanifen got up and said, “Archbishop Laghi, this is ranching country out here and it is a crime and expensive to lose bulls.” The place erupted in laughter spawned by local humor.