ATLANTA, Ga.- A sunny and windy 75 degree afternoon made for a picturesque first press conference for newly installed Diocese of Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. Immediately following the ceremony, which took place within the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, the archbishop stepped behind a microphone surrounded by strategically-placed media there to cover the event. Hartmayer spent 8 years as bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, and now he prepared to take his first questions as archbishop of Atlanta. “Welcome to the Cathedral of Christ the King, it is a wonderful place for me to be today because it is here that I have been installed officially as the seventh archbishop of [the Diocese of] Atlanta,” said Hartmayer.
Prior to making a statement and answering questions from the media, a dozen adults and children had positioned themselves just below the steps of the church with signs that read “Welcome. Please open our churches, we miss Jesus”, “Jesus we trust in you” and “The Eucharist is our P.P.E.”. Hartmayer and Bishop’s Assistant Father Pablo Migone took a few minutes to not only greet the group but the new archbishop answered questions regarding when parishes will be opened again. Asked what he thought of the people he visited on the street below, Hartmayer said, “They’re God’s people and they feel as I do, they miss the Eucharist. What better thing can someone say as a Catholic than that they miss receiving the Eucharist and I miss seeing them in our churches. I know all of our priests do. That’s what we are here for.
“We understand their strong desire to be in church and to be receiving the sacraments. We as priests and bishops want nothing more than to be with them as well.”
Hartmayer will forever have the distinction of being the first archbishop to have been installed in a very unique fashion. The ceremony was a first of its kind due to the limited guests in order to properly adhere to COVID-19 social-distancing protocol. The faithful did have the opportunity to view the installation via livestream and on both EWTN and The Catholic Television Network.
The archbishop spoke about continuing to bring the word of the gospel to the people and the reality of empty churches and decreasing numbers of churchgoers. Asked what it was like to have had his installation in an “empty church,” Hartmayer said, “Empty churches are a bishops worst nightmare because we are here to evangelize, we’re here to bring the message and the word of the gospel to our people and to share the sacraments of the church, and we can’t do that if they’re not here. There’s a reality that this could very well happen if we take the sacraments for granted, or if we’re not active in our church, if we’re not devout in our faith then our numbers will continue to decrease. That we have got to continue to preach against.”
Hartmayer is familiar with the Diocese of Atlanta, having served as pastor of St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro for 15 years before taking the same position at St. John Vianney, Lithia Springs for a year prior to being ordained bishop of the Diocese of Savannah on October 18, 2011. “This is familiar territory for me, I was here 16 years and it’s good to be back in the Atlanta diocese,” said Hartmayer. “It’s exciting to be the archbishop of Atlanta.”
He closed the press conference with a few thoughts on his time in Savannah. “There’s always going to be a special place in my heart for the people of Savannah,” Hartmayer said. “Savannah is called ‘the hostess city’ because it really is, it’s very welcoming to visitors. The city of Savannah and the diocese is beautiful, the people are hardworking people and I will miss but I have fond memories to take with me.”