Archbishop Wilton Gregory celebrated a Sept. 14, 2020 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the founding of the priesthood and to bless sacramental oils that will be used in parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington.

“The priesthood of Jesus Christ is a treasure to the world… (it) remains the treasure we share not only among ourselves, but more importantly, with our brothers and sisters for whom we are called to love on His behalf,” Archbishop Gregory said.

Concelebrating the Mass were Washington Auxiliary Bishops Mario Dorsonville, Roy E. Campbell Jr. and Michael Fisher; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop emeritus of Washington; and priests of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Celebrating his first Chrism Mass since he was named archbishop of Washington last year, Archbishop Gregory told the assembled priests that “as I have come to know and love you, I can honestly say I have found you to be a marvelous group of men.”

“You bring the zeal of your love of the Gospel and the Lord’s Church to this Eucharist and to every Mass you earnestly celebrate under every conceivable circumstance, especially the past six months,” Archbishop Gregory said.

The annual Mass is traditionally celebrated during Holy Week to commemorate the founding of the priesthood by Jesus Christ. Celebration of this year’s Mass was delayed by nearly six months due to quarantine measures established by local governments to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Public Masses in the Archdiocese of Washington were not held from mid-March until around Memorial Day, and resumed in accordance with local restrictions on the sizes of public gatherings.

During the Chrism Mass each year, priests of the Archdiocese of Washington attend and renew their priestly promises. However, due to the restrictions still in place because of the pandemic, the Mass was livestreamed via the Internet and attendance was limited to the College of Consultors, Deans, members of the Clergy Personnel Board and Priest Council, newly ordained priests, priests celebrating milestone anniversaries of their ordinations and representatives from the various religious communities in the archdiocese.

Priests attending the Sept. 14 Chrism Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral wore face masks and were at social distances from each other, in accordance with archdiocesan safety guidelines for Masses during the coronavirus pandemic. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Archbishop Gregory told the priests in attendance and those following via the Internet that Jesus’s own priesthood “is the very source of the unity we share… true priestly unity is not in any fashion clericalism… only those who are truly poor have such a claim of preferential treatment in the heart of the Church.”

The archbishop said that priests are united in one faith even though “our religious opinions are and will remain varied” and that priests “are and should be” diverse in culture, grace and ethnic origins.

Despite those differences, he told his brother priests, “we are one because the Lord Jesus has chosen – for His still unknown reasons – to call us His friends.”

He also noted that priests and bishops “need one another more so perhaps today than ever before” and should view one another as “friends, colleagues and associates.”

“Bishops must love their brother priests more than ever before, and we must be unafraid to tell them so candidly,” Archbishop Gregory said.

During the Mass, Archbishop Gregory, calling priests his “beloved sons,” led them in the renewal of their priestly vows. Addressing the laity, the archbishop asked his “dearest sons and daughters” to please pray for priests and to pray for him.

“May the Lord lead all of us – shepherds and flock – to eternal life,” he prayed.

At the Sept. 14, 2020 Chrism Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, Archbishop Gregory encouraged his brother priests to be united in their priesthood with Christ and with each other. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

At the Mass Archbishop Gregory blessed the special oils that all parishes in the archdiocese will use to administer the sacraments for the following year. In blessing the oils, he prayed that “all those who are outwardly anointed with it may be inwardly transformed.”

The consecrated oils will be used for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick, and will also be used during the sacrament of Holy Orders, when new priests are ordained.

Calling oil “a healing, strengthening and converting element,” he said the oils are blessed so that the Church of Washington “can be gifted with the powers that God bestows upon these holy oils, and through them, all the people of God.”

He also prayed that the “transforming power and force of the blessed oils continue to work their conversions … all for the greater honor and glory of God.”