Newark Archbishop John Myers announced Thursday that an inaugural mass for Gov.-elect Chris Christie will be held on Jan. 19, the day he is sworn in as New Jersey 55th governor, at 9 a.m. at The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. The swearing in is set for 11:30 a.m. at the War Memorial Building in Trenton.
Christie, a Republican, will be the sixth Catholic to serve as governor since 1776. The first Catholic governor, Democrat Richard Hughes, took office in 1962 and four of the seven governors who followed him were Catholic: Republican William Cahill and Democrats Brendan Byrne, James Florio, and James McGreevey.
Richard Codey, who served as an un-elected governor after McGreevey resigned is also Catholic.
Christie received communion at Sacred Heart Thursday while attending the Archbishop's annual Blue Mass for Law Enforcement.
On the matter of legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey, Christie and the Catholic leaders are in agreement in their opposition.
Christie has said he will do all he can to block the state from allowing gay marriage. Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature are attempting to determine if they will have the votes to legalize gay marriage during the lameduck session that begins Nov. 23 and send the legislation to Gov. Jon Corzine for approval before he leaves office. New Jersey has been a gay rights battleground over the last six years as gay rights advocates have gained expanded legal rights for same-sex couples.
Christie has also said he would like to see the voters decide if gay marriage should be legalized through an amendment to the state constitution.
"If you are going to make that type of groundbreaking societal change, people should get the chance to vote on it,'' he told the Associated Press in early October.
Presently, 29 states have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Courts in Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts have ruled that gay marriage is legal in those states. Vermont and New Hampshire permit gay marriage but voters in Maine defeated the idea on Nov. 3.
On the abortion issue, Christie, like church leaders, is pro-life.
"I an pro-life,'' he said during the campaign. "Hearing the strong heartbeat of my unborn daughter 14 years ago and 13 weeks gestation had a profound effect on me and my beliefs. The life of every human being is precious. We must work to reduce abortions in New Jersey through laws such as parental notification, a 24-hour waiting period and a ban on partial-birth abortions.''
There are 3.5 million Catholics in New Jersey, 41 percent of the population. The percentage has declined from 46 percent in 1990.