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Leonard P. Blair Installed as New Archbishop of Hartford Archdiocese

About 2,000 people came to the Cathedral of Saint Joseph to attend the installation of the Archdiocese of Hartford's fifth archbishop, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The Archdiocese of Hartford installed Leonard P. Blair, 64, as its new archbishop on Monday, Dec. 16 at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford. Blair is the archdiocese's fifth archbishop. Credit: Jessie Sawyer
The Archdiocese of Hartford installed Leonard P. Blair, 64, as its new archbishop on Monday, Dec. 16 at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford. Blair is the archdiocese's fifth archbishop. Credit: Jessie Sawyer
The Archdiocese of Hartford's fifth archbishop was installed Monday, Dec. 16 at a Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford. 

About 2,000 people, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, attended the Mass of Installation for Leonard P. Blair and were invited to a reception afterword. 

"When I first came in the cathedral, obviously there's a certain holy fear that comes over you," Blair, 64,  said. "This is a big responsibility and it's a new home. I prayed for God to give me the gift of the Holy Spirit and that what I will say and do will help people with their faith."

He said that he's been inspired by Pope Francis, whose ideas he finds to be refreshing and challenging.

“To all the clergy, religious and laity of the Archdiocese I want to say how very happy and honored I am to be your new Archbishop. I especially look forward to meeting the priests, who are a bishop’s closest and indispensable collaborators,” Blair said in a statement. “I learned early on that whatever the position or the place, the true gift of God is to be found in the people with whom you live and work, and I look forward to the blessings of a new family of faith in which to make a home as your Archbishop.”

In a press conference after the Mass, Blair spoke of wanting to reach out to both Catholics and people outside the religion. He said that the amount of Americans practicing Catholicism and religions in general has diminished as secularism has grown. 

"I think under, particularly the leadership of Pope Francis and certainly the popes that went before him too, there's a sense that the world is changing and that there needs to be a new outreach to people about the church's mission," Blair said. "What's new is that it doesn't include just people that might never have heard of the gospel, but even people who have heard it, including Catholics.... There are people who are very wounded and who are wondering. There's a battle going on in people's souls a lot of times and they suffer many things that the Church has to be there with the tenderness and the mercy of Christ."

Before coming to Hartford, Blair was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Toledo in 2003. 

"I celebrated Mass here like I would have in the Cathedral back in Toledo," he said. 

He gave a portion of his sermon in Spanish and many of the readings given by members of the Church were in other languages. 

In 1976, he was ordained as a priest and has since served as a parish priest, seminary professor, the chancellor and vicar general of the Archdiocese of Detroit and auxiliary bishop of Detroit, according to a press release. His family has a Polish background. 

Every state has its differences when it comes to religion, culture and history. Blair is new to Connecticut. Blair said that he "has to hit the ground running" and that his new role starts with getting to know new communities under the archdiocese's purview and the geography. 

"I have to spend time really getting to appreciate and know the local culture, the local history and the people," Blair said. 

He said he is looking forward to meeting people and said that the Church is more than an institution. He considers the archdiocese to be a family that shares bonds of faith.  

Blair also spent 13 years on-and-off in Italy as a student and student priest and also working for the Holy See in Vatican City. 

He had an audience with the Pope himself before being officially appointed. Blair asked Pope Francis for his blessing to become the new archbishop and for Hartford. 

"There was a big line of people, so we didn't talk too long," Blair said. "He certainly gave me a big smile and acknowledged that and said that he certainly granted that."

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