October 5th, 2012
04:14 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)– Was it a snub or a misunderstanding?
On Thursday the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco held its installation service for new Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in front of 2,000 invited guests at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. A large delegation of Catholic clergy and faith leaders from around the city were there to join the service, processing in.
But those seated in the cathedral noticed one participant missing, Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus, the local Episcopal bishop.
Pacific Church News, the news service from the Episcopal Diocese of California, reported that Andrus "was not allowed to be seated" and "detained by an usher" in the basement until he left shortly before the service began.
Andrus posted what he dubbed as a "clarification" on his blog just after midnight on Friday morning. Andrus wrote he was dropped off at 1:30 p.m. and it took him 10 minutes to get through a crowd of protesters.
Gay marriage supporters in San Francisco protested Cordileone's installation because of his strong support for Proposition 8 in California and his vocal support for traditional marriage, the formal teaching of the Catholic church, while he was the bishop in neighboring Oakland, California.
Andrus writes in his post that he was told by the archdiocese to be there by 1:45 p.m. Upon arrival, he identified himself and was escorted to the basement where he saw the local head of the Greek Orthodox church and his delegation.
After chatting briefly with the Greek Orthodox group he writes, "An archdiocesan employee attempted to escort me upstairs with the Greek Orthodox group, but was stopped from doing so by the employee to whom I had first identified myself. This person, who appeared to be in a superior role, instructed another employee to stand with me."
By then Andrus writes no one else was in the basement but he and the employee from the archdiocese. The service got under way and Andrus writes, "I said to the employee, 'I think I understand, and feel I should leave.' Her response was, 'Thank you for being understanding.' "
After that brief conversation Andrus said he headed for the door.
"No attempt was ever made to explain the delay or any process for seating. I arrived early, before the time given my assistant, and waited to leave until after the service had begun," he writes.
A few days before the installation Andrus posted a letter to the Diocese of California. In the letter Andrus noted his opposition to Proposition 8 and support of same-sex marriage but pointed to the long Christian tradition of Christians disagreeing on some issues yet still working together on others. He mentioned issues of poverty and immigration as areas where the two Christian groups had partnered recently in the city.
Andrus also included this line, "Some Catholics may find themselves less at home with Salvatore Cordileone’s installation and they may come to The Episcopal Church. We should welcome them as our sisters and brothers."
That line could be viewed as either a subtle jab over a contentious issue or a reminder to parishioners over an issue already unfolding.
"We were certainly aware of his letter," George Wesolek, the director of communications and public policy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco told CNN in an e-mail.
"Interfaith relations in San Francisco have always been cordial, working on issues that we agree on (which are many: immigration, global poverty, affordable housing etc.), but disagreeing on other issues – abortion, marriage, etc," he continued.
Wesolek stressed, "We would never exclude an invited guest and collaborator on certain issues of importance to the whole community," when asked about Andrus not being seated and if the letter played any part in the incident.
"Bishop Andrus, our guest, arrived before the 2 p.m. start, but after the interfaith delegation was seated in the front pews of the Cathedral. He was asked to wait in the conference rooms below the Cathedral which was the staging area for the 40 bishops, 2 Cardinals and some 250 priests," Wesolek said.
"A staff member was trying to determine how and when to seat him in a way that was appropriate and would not cause any disruption. When they came to get him and seat him, he had left," Wesolek said explaining what had happened as he saw it.
"There was never any intention to exclude the Bishop. We are expressing our apologies to him for the obvious misunderstanding," he said.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.