Installation of Archbishop Christopher Cardone OP, of Honiara – Solomons style!

Installation of Archbishop Christopher Cardone OP, of Honiara – Solomons style!

A number of men and women officials, dressed in their colourful red shirts covered with white hibiscus greeted us at the cathedral door at 6.00am as we five Australian sisters came to take our places with our Solomon Islands Dominican Sisters for the Installation Mass that was to begin at 9.30.  Their warm welcome was echoed time after time by so many of the thousands of Solomon Islanders who came to take their part and show their gratitude to Bishop Chris for taking on this new challenge among the people of the extensive, remote archdiocese.

It is difficult to express the sense of great joy, deep faith and sheer exuberance that surrounded the installation of the third Archbishop of the diocese of Honiara last weekend!  The local people were joined by priests and religious from all over the Solomons, bishops from New Guinea and Fiji, and Sydney’s fellow Dominican Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, as well as the affectionately remembered emeritus Bishop of Gizo, Bishop Bernard O’Grady OP, and of course the much loved retiring Archbishop Adrian Smith SM. The Governor General, Sir Frank Kabui, cabinet ministers, ambassadors and other dignitaries also added their flavor to the event. There was a very special welcome reserved too for Archbishop Chris’s 87 year old father and step-mother, his sisters, brother and friends who travelled from the United States for this unique occasion.

Bishop Chris was escorted from the Archbishop’s house by dancers in local dress and pan pipers, only to be greeted at the Cathedral door by warriors who enquired whether the party was friend or foe.  Once that issue was settled the singing began, led by the Dominican Sisters and the Seminarians, rich in harmony and full volume.  The music of the mass parts, ‘Misa Loga’, so joyful and simple, was composed by Sr Margaret Scharf OP from WA during a recent visit to the Dominican Island.  Who could forget the young warriors dancing the Gloria around the altar, or the gospel procession in which dancers preceded the book carried by a young man who in turn was carried on the shoulders of some of the diocesan youth, or the large group of hearing-impaired students who signed their way through the ceremonies from their special place at the side of the sanctuary.  And we were so proud of Sr Saniela OP as she sang the responsorial psalm, and the two Dominican sisters who read some of the prayers of intercession which were said in the eight most common languages of the islands.

After the reading of the official letter of appointment Archbishop Chris spoke magnificently of his new role and his joy in ministering among his people.  He referred especially to his motto, long held, ‘Serve the Lord with Gladness’. This was indeed already evident in the way Mass was celebrated and the Word proclaimed as Archbishop Chris directed.  Central to the Mass was commemoration of the Diocesan Feast of the Holy Cross, a sober reminder of the challenges Archbishop Chris will face in his new ministry, but also a constant reminder of the resurrected Christ whose sacrifice gives our Christian life meaning.

When the Eucharistic celebration ended, the joy did not.  Many hours of feasting followed, and, more importantly, the many gifts from the various mission stations were brought to the new leader, accompanied by dancing and more rich traditional singing.

The following morning, and there were some who had enjoyed the festivities through the night, there was a Mass of Thanksgiving – another cultural festive expression of faith and joy.  Archbishop Anthony Fisher preached so well at the invitation of his fellow Dominican friend. Sunday’s texts marked the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, the title under which Mary is the protectress of the Solomon Islands.

More feasting and celebration was the order of that day too.  Unfortunately, some of us had to return to Australia.  What an experience we shared with our Sisters and the Solomon Islands people! And what a privilege to witness such faith and culturally diverse expression of liturgical joy.

We wish Archbishop Chris ‘Ad Multos Annos’ and many blessings as he walks into a new future with the people of the friendly isles.

Honiara Homily: Arcbishop Anthony Fisher, OP Gives Thanks.



(21 September 2016)