In an elaborate, three hour and 45-minute ceremony filled with ritual and tradition and attended by more than 5,000 people, the Most Rev. Alvaro Corrada del Rio was installed here yesterday as the first bishop of Hispanic origin in the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Washington.
Three cardinals, 35 bishops and more than 300 priests and deacons attended the ceremony at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in which Bishop Corrada, a native of Puerto Rico, became one of three auxiliary bishops serving the archdiocese's 270,000 Catholics.
Archbishop James A. Hickey, who conducted the ceremony with the aid of auxiliary bishops Eugene A. Marino and Thomas W. Lyons, said Corrada will be bishop of all the people. He has also indicated that Corrada will have special responsibilities among Hispanics.
In addition, the new bishop is expected to preside over a yet-to-be-designated geographical portion of the archdiocese. About 20 percent of the Catholics in the archdiocese, which includes the District of Columbia and five Maryland counties, are Hispanic.
Corrada, 43, was born in Santurce into a family of 14 children. About 100 close relatives attended the ceremony, and his 75-year-old mother, Ana Maria del Rio, who was widowed two years ago, sat in a front pew. During the mass, after the kiss of peace, Corrada left the altar to embrace her. He also gave communion to his relatives.
The ceremony, described by a spokesman as an important moment for the 48-year-old archdiocese, began at 1:45 p.m. with a procession of clergy led by sword-bearing Knights of Columbus in capes and cocked hats. A chalice used in the mass has been traced to the first Catholic priests in the 13 colonies, who were Jesuits, as is Corrada.
After lying prostrate for 15 minutes while a litany was sung and then seating himself for an interrogation on his loyalty to his faith, Corrada was anointed with oil by Hickey. Subsequently all 35 bishops at the service placed their hands on his head in a ritual signifying a physical link with the 12 apostles.
Cardinals John O'Connor of New York and Luis Aponte Martinez of Puerto Rico spoke at the ceremony. The third cardinal who attended was 89-year-old Patrick O'Boyle, the first resident archbishop of the diocese. The sermon, emphasizing a bishop's duties as a teacher and a leader of his flock, was delivered by Bishop Sean O'Malley of the Virgin Islands, who formerly ministered to Hispanics here.
In addition to becoming Washington's first Hispanic bishop, Corrada is the first Puerto Rican-born bishop in the United States, and the only active Jesuit bishop in the 48 contiguous states, according to an archdiocesan spokesman.
The ceremony concluded at 5:30 p.m. as Corrada, newly presented with his episcopal ring, his bishop's miter and a staff that was ornately carved in the Central American artistic tradition, marched from the shrine with Hickey. The long ritual was followed by a fiesta.