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New Calif. archbishop stirs controversy

SAN FRANCISCO -- The installation of a new Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, a backer of California's same-sex marriage ban, drew support and concern yesterday as the 56-year-old priest assumed the ceremonial seat at St. Mary's Cathedral.

Such inductions have not historically been cause for much interest in San Francisco, where the population of church faithful is smaller than in many major U.S. cities. But attention has been intense this time.

About three dozen gay rights advocates protested outside the cathedral, opposite a group singing hymns as they celebrated the new archbishop. Salvatore Joseph Cordileone took the seat before a crowd of 2,000. An appointment letter from the pope was read during a three-hour Mass.

Cordileone, a native Californian who served as bishop of Oakland for the past 3 1/2 years, has a nationwide reputation as a fierce defender of the Catholic Church's positions on homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular.

His stance has endeared him to fellow Catholic conservatives who have long regarded the San Francisco Bay area's gay-friendly parishes as wayward sheep in the flock.

More liberal Catholics and other faith communities that welcome gay, lesbian and transgender members, however, are worried about that part of his resume, reflected in his experience as one of the early engineers of California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in 2008, and since 2011 as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' subcommittee charged with opposing legalizing gay unions.

Those concerns prompted Marc Andrus, the Episcopal bishop of California, to write an open letter to his parishioners, stating that while he planned to attend the ceremony and to work with the new archbishop on issues such as immigration reform, he would also welcome into the Episcopal fold Catholics who "may find themselves less at home with Salvatore Cordileone's installation."

For his part, Cordileone has said he wants to be seen as more than a one-issue man. He has not backpedaled, though, on previous statements calling same-sex marriage beyond one man and one woman "the ultimate attack of the Evil One" and declaring that Catholics who support it should refrain from taking communion.

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