In October last year Fr. Ottar Mikael Myrseth was elected bishop of The Nordic Catholic Church to be consecrated bishop in Scranton this April. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the episcopal consecration has been postponed to September and may even be subject to further delays into next year.
In order to keep the momentum during this «vacuum» it was deemed appropriate and necessary to transfer already now the canonical responsibility to the Bishop-Elect. He will then be formally in charge of the administration of The Nordic Catholic Church in Scandinavia. Due to the exceptional circumstances, the International Catholic Bishops Conference (ICBC) of the Union of Scranton on May 12th agreed that as visible symbol of his authority the Bishop-Elect will be given the title of mitered archpriest until his consecration.
Consequently, at the Feast of the Ascension, Bishop-Elect Ottar Mikael was installed in his new capacity by Bishop Roald Nikolai. The service took place as part of an annual event at St. John the Baptist Church in Oslo with participation of clergy and laity from Viken Deanery.
In the short installation ceremony which took place between the second reading and the proclamation of the Gospel, Bishop Roald Nikolai made a point of that this extraordinary initiative is not without precedent in Norwegian church history. There is a record from 1247 that the Abbot of St. Columba Monastery from his difficult position on the distant Sodor Isles far away from the Archiepiscopal See of Nidaros, by petition was granted special permission by the Pope to use miter and other insignia to formalise his authority when serving in episcopal capacity.
In his sermon, the Bishop-Elect reflected over how heaven and earth meet in our lives as believers from the perspective that “it is easier for us who live on the Atlantic coast between the ocean and the high mountains to grasp the meaning of Ascension Day. A glance over the sea shows us that heaven and earth are joined in the horizon. Likewise, when Jesus is lifted up to heaven, exalted “to the right hand of God”, it does not mean that he is far away. Heaven and earth meet in our lives as believers. The Apostle also states that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6). (…) This is a great comfort under the pandemic pressure. Let us think of the heavenly life which is prepared for us. There is no reason to give up; we should spend every second of life adjusting to heaven while living here and now.”
At the end of the service a deeply moved Bishop Roald Nikolai turned to the Archpriest with a personal address thanking him for his willingness to take on the responsibilities: “We live in difficult times but in our pilgrimage of faith Christ who called us to his service, is walking with us. The future is uncertain but we have gained confidence during our pilgrimage. Christ is risen and through the Gospel there is a connection between Him and those who preach Him. Maximus Confessor († 662) expressed this relationship saying that our end is in our beginning. There is continuity and perseverance in our vocation to serve. May this wisdom of trust and fidelity which since then has been repeated for comfort over and over again, give also you courage and strength in your continued work for the church.”