On 17 December 2022, Fr. Fernando Prado was consecrated to the Order of the Episcopate by His Eminence Cardinal Bocos Merino at the Good Shepherd Cathedral in San Sebastian, Spain.
The solemn celebration began with the still bishop-elect had been received at the entrance of the cathedral by the diocesan administrator, His Holiness’s Nuncio in Spain, Monsignor Bernardito Aúza, as well as by various political authorities who work in the San Sebastián city council, and by dozens of lay people, priests and religious from San Sebastian. Among the sounds of the music band, the Nuncio presented him to the faithful gathered in the temple at the door of the cathedral. He was accompanied by Card. Aquilino Bocos Merino, who presided over the ensuing celebration, and Mons. Francisco Pérez, Archbishop of Pamplona, who has been administrator of the diocese during these months of vacancy.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the Pope’s Nuncio encouraged the new bishop to “make known to everyone the love of God that is always offered to us” and urged him to work remembering the congregation in which his missionary journey was forged. After the liturgy of the Word, the episcopal ordination began with the invocation of the Holy Spirit. The bishop-elect was then presented with the reading of the Papal Bull.
In his homily, Card. Bocos Merino recalled that “today is a day of joy, thanksgiving and hope for the people of God who are on pilgrimage in San Sebastián. And it is because Fernando comes to make the words of the prophet his own: ‘The Lord has sent me to give the good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearts, to proclaim amnesty to the captives, and to the prisoners freedom, to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord’”. “Today we recognize the bishop as a servant and teacher, expressions that refer us to the person of Jesus, Good Shepherd.”
After the homily, Card. Bocos questioned his brother and he prostrated himself, while the entire assembly invoked the saints to intercede for the new bishop. Thus came the culminating moment of the ceremony, the laying of hands by the ordaining bishop as well as by the twenty-two bishops and archbishops present in the cathedral. Card. Bocos anointed the head of the new bishop with the holy chrism and gave him the Gospels and the episcopal insignia: the ring, the miter and the crosier.
Bishop Prado Ayuso went to the chair and sat down; In this way, he took possession of the San Sebastián headquarters to the emotional applause of the faithful who packed the Cathedral and the cloister. Immediately, he hugged his brother bishops and received greetings from various representatives of the diocese: religious and consecrated, lay people, children, catechists and priests.
Before ending the celebration the new bishop walked to the central nave of the cathedral blessing the faithful, accompanied by two of the predecessor bishops of the diocese, Mons. Juan Ignacio Munilla, today pastor in Orihuela-Alicante, and Mons. Juan María Uriarte, Bishop of San Sebastián during the first ten years of this century.
Later, Bishop Prado pronounced his first words as the new prelate of the San Sebastian see, in a deep speech that he wanted to address, before anyone else, “to all those people who, in general, do not count.” “In the eyes of God you are great,” he conceded. “How beautiful it is to dream of all of us in the heart of God. What joy and what strength it gives us to know that for God there is no one invisible, that for Him we all count. This is the good news that produces the true joy that we want to announce”
“I want to express my greetings in a special way to all the people who make pilgrimages to Gipuzkoa and who are made up of religious, their priests and the laity who represent that great majority of the people of God. You are light and salt of the Gospel in the midst of society”, he continued. “Together we build the Church and together we will trace dreams and find solutions to many things. In communion is our only future”.
The newly appointed pastor opened up to his flock, confessing that “20 years ago I received priestly ordination and today I return to you after other missionary assignments. I come back more mature and something more done, although with all the strength and illusion of first love”. “I would like to be, if you let me, your pastor, brother, father and friend.”
“My program is that of a Church at the service of the Gospel. Live it, celebrate it, cultivate it and try to proclaim it above all with life. There can be no other program than living the gospel evangelically, trying to make those who don’t count count. It is what I want, that the Word be our life”, he expressed.
“Many ask us followers of Jesus to see him,” he continued. “And today I ask that our life be a real testimony of joy, compassion and tenderness towards everyone”. For the new pastor, “today no one is convinced by good arguments, only the testimony of that love that unites us and makes us close. I ask God that our lives be the best Gospel preached ”, he concluded before giving the final blessing and greeting everyone present.
Among the religious authorities present were three cardinals, Bocos -main consecrator- Blázquez y Osoro, the Nuncio of His Holiness in Spain and nineteen other bishops from Spain and Latin America. Various Claretian religious who came from different parts of the Spanish geography also participated in the ordination. Among the members of the province we can highlight the presence of the entire provincial government, as well as different members of the communities of Buen Suceso, Juan Álvarez de Mendizábal and Colegios Mayores. Claretians who work in missions outside our borders could also be seen, such as those who came from Zurich, and a group of missionaries from the general government in Rome, including the PP. Carlos Sánchez and Manuel Tamargo, who were present representing our Father General, whose commitments in these weeks prevented him from traveling to Spain. Numerous was the representation of the parishioners of the church of San Antón, in Madrid, and various civil authorities and public servants, with whom the bishop of the diocese, Fernando Prado, requested collaboration in the search for the common good.
More than twenty people formed the choir and were in charge of the musical interpretation of the ceremony, directed by Alain Ayerdi Gurpegi. Thanks to them, the episcopal ordination and inauguration of Fernando Prado as bishop of the diocese of San Sebastián looked like a true holiday, with songs solemnly sung in Basque and Latin.