Space, safety and religious reasons cited by diocesan officials

It seems like snagging an invitation to new Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez’s installation liturgy on Sept. 5, or vespers the day before, is the hottest ticket in town. Both are invitation-only events and tickets for assigned seating are required for admission.

There are some good reasons why the invitation list is restricted: primarily space, safety and ensuring that the events are conducted in a respectful, religious manner.

“I really wish that we had an invitation for every person who wants to attend the vespers service or the installation,” said Sister Rita Mary Harwood, a member of the installation committee. “Building an addition to the cathedral or installing a Jumbotron on East Ninth Street do not seem viable options. Unfortunately, there simply is not enough room in the cathedral for everyone to attend the events.”

It is important that the events take place in the cathedral, since that is where the cathedra, the bishop’s official chair is located.  That chair, which is in the center of the sanctuary, is symbolic of the responsibility and authority Bishop Perez is accepting as he becomes the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, the mother church of the diocese, is located in downtown Cleveland. It has a seating capacity of a little less than 1,100 people when every seat is available. However, space will be limited for the installation events.

Some of the space is needed for media, who must be credentialed. The diocese will be streaming both the 5:30 p.m. Sept. 4 vespers and the 2 p.m. Sept. 5 installation liturgy live on its website, The feed also will be shared with other broadcast media and television networks, including EWTN CatholicTV from Boston and Telecare, a Catholic television network from New York. Local television stations also are planning some coverage of the events. Diocesan officials are trying to make it easy for those interested to watch one or both events.

“We’re trying to find as many avenues as we can to share the feed so we can reach the greatest possible number of people who are interested in watching the events,” said Deacon Jim Armstrong, executive director of communications for the diocese.  “Hopefully, some of our parishes will be planning watch parties which will make it possible for parishioners to come together to celebrate this great event.  Others may choose to watch the installation or the vespers service at home,” he added.

All priests and deacons from the diocese are invited to participate in the events, which accounts for about 700 people. In addition, about 100 visiting clergy, including bishops, archbishops and cardinals, are expected to travel here for the installation. Bishop Perez will be inviting some of his family and friends to attend. And don’t forget that space is needed for musicians, singers and others who will play a role in the Mass and/or vespers.

Another major concern is safety. The cathedral will be crowded and in case of an emergency, it is essential that every safety precaution be considered. Security personnel will be on hand for both events.

Members of the installation planning committee have been meeting for several months – even before the new bishop was announced — to arrange logistics for both events, including the invitation list, accommodations for out-of-town guests, transportation, hospitality, planning the liturgy and vespers, security, media coverage and more.

This is a very exciting and challenging time,” said Sister Rita Mary. “Every effort is being made to accommodate various groups within the diocese who represent a cross-section of the people of our diocesan community.

“Bishop Perez has shown great interest and eagerness to meet all the members of his flock here in Cleveland. We know that future events will be scheduled so that all of us have the opportunity to meet the bishop,” she added.

Hopefully, using invitations helps to ensure that the public does not get a false expectation of being able to attend an event in a facility like the cathedral that has a limited capacity, Sister said. One diocesan official compared planning the installation to planning a small convention.

Bishop Perez, 56, is the 11th bishop of Cleveland. He succeeds Bishop Richard Lennon who retired on Dec. 28, 2016 due to ongoing health concerns. Pope Francis named Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas Apostolic Administrator of the diocese while the bishop’s office was vacant.