Knoxville Catholics celebrate new pope, bishop's anniversary

Knoxville Catholics celebrate new pope, bishop's anniversary

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Local Catholics shared a special Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in West Knoxville honoring the Pope and Knoxville's Bishop Richard Stika. Local Catholics shared a special Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in West Knoxville honoring the Pope and Knoxville's Bishop Richard Stika.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Pope Francis was installed early Tuesday morning as the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

A special mass was held in Saint Peter's Square, attended by thousands and watched by millions across the world. 

A few hours later, Knoxville Catholics shared a special mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in West Knoxville to honor the pope and Knoxville's Bishop Richard Stika.

March 19 is the Feast of St. Joseph in the Catholic Church, but Tuesday the faithful paused at noon not just for traditional mass, but also to celebrate the installation of Pope Francis and the installation of the leader of the Knoxville Diocese.

"Today just by coincidence it is the fourth  anniversary of our own bishop's ordination," Father David Boettner said. "Four years ago today Bishop Stika was ordained a bishop by Cardinal Rigali, who helped select Pope Francis."

"So it all comes together in one place," Boettner added with a smile.

Bishop Stika was in jeopardy of missing his flight back to Knoxville because of inclement weather.  He arrived back in Tennessee just in time for Tuesday's special service after a quick trip for one of his favorite pastimes. 

"All this activity with the pope, I decided it was time to see some other Cardinals, so I went to spring training games at West Palm Beach, " Bishop Stika said.

All kidding aside, the bishop said he was not surprised by the pope's interaction with the crowd and lack of bulletproof glass  in St. Peter's Square.

Stika says that will likely have to change.

"I would think there will be a constant tussle with the pope and his security team," he said. "But when he travels internationally, it is often dictated by local security, so he may not have that freedom."

During the mass, parishioners were told one of the pope's first official blessings was being sent directly to East Tennessee.

Bishop Stika said Cardinal Rigali asked for a verbal prayer, but the pope insisted on putting it in writing.

"He said, 'Let's get this done before all the formalities begin,' so the cardinal went over, had the document prepared, and the pope signed it," Stika said. "Rather than sign in Latin, he just signed it Francis."

Cardinal Rigali is expected to be home this weekend. The written blessing from the pope will be on display for the public when the cardinal returns.

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