On Jan. 23, it was announced that Pope Francis had appointed the Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland as the new archbishop of Philadelphia. By all accounts, that is a very wise move and will be both a blessing to the church in Philadelphia and to the church in the United States.
Archbishop Perez is no stranger to New York state. He served as an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, L.I., from 2012 to 2017. On Long Island, the bishop was the vicar of the Eastern Region and the episcopal vicar to the Hispanic community. There, he was known for his warm, pastoral presence.
The new archbishop replaces Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.C., as the ordinary of Philadelphia. Archbishop Chaput has been a valiant defender of life, from conception to natural death, a caring and practical pastor for a very large archdiocese, a brilliant orator and homilist, and above all, a model of a holy bishop.
What makes the appointment of Archbishop Perez so special?
First, the archbishop was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It is a homecoming for him. He served as a parochial vicar, a pastor, and in administrative and educational roles there for many years before Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre. This seems to be a growing trend — Pope Francis appointing priests and bishops as ordinaries of the diocese where they started.
Second, it is the appointment of a Hispanic prelate as an archbishop of a major metropolitan see. Archbishop Perez is the child of Cuban immigrants.
Although in his priestly and episcopal ministry, he served a wide variety of people, the fact that a Latino would be appointed to preside over the archdiocese is a recognition of the importance of the Hispanic presence in the Catholic Church in the United States. Like with the Germans, Italians and Irish of the 19th century, Hispanic immigration to the United States in the 20th and 21st centuries has become part of the norm. Latinos are no longer just followers, but rather they are also leaders in the church.
We pray in thanksgiving for the priestly and episcopal ministry of Archbishop-Emeritus Charles J. Chaput. We pray for the blessing of God on the ministry of Archbishop Perez and welcome him back to the East Coast. And we thank God for the beautiful gifts of all the different ethnic groups that make up the rich tapestry that is the church in the United States.