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Cleveland’s Bishop Nelson Perez to lead Philadelphia archdiocese

He succeeds Archbishop Charles Chaput, 75, who had led the Philadelphia archdiocese since 2011.

Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland is pictured in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sept. 16, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia Thursday, returning to the local Church of his priestly ordination.

He succeeds Archbishop Charles Chaput, 75, who had led the Philadelphia archdiocese since 2011. Ordained a priest of the Capuchin Franciscans in 1970, Archbishop Chaput served as Bishop of Rapid City and Archbishop of Denver before his transfer to Philadelphia.

“Bishop Perez is a man who already knows and loves the Church in Philadelphia, and is already known and loved by our priests and people. I cannot think of a better successor to lead this Archdiocese,” Chaput wrote online following the announcement.

Bishop Perez, 58, was born in Miami to Cuban parents, and grew up in New Jersey. He is the first Hispanic bishop to lead the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for this appointment and his confidence in me,” Perez said Jan. 23.

“It is with great joy tinged with a sense of sadness that I accept the appointment — joy that I will be returning to serve the archdiocese in which I was ordained to the priesthood, where I served as the pastor of two parishes and where I held several leadership positions within the archdiocese, and sadness that I will be leaving an area and the incredible people in Northeast Ohio I have come to love deeply,” he said.

After pastoral and Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Perez was named in 2012 an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, and was consecrated a bishop that July.

As auxiliary bishop he was episcopal vicar of Long Island’s eastern vicariate and oversaw the Hispanic apostolates of the diocese.

In 2017 he was appointed Bishop of Cleveland.

When a ‘heartbeat bill’ was signed into law in Ohio last year, he said it represented “a major step forward in efforts to protect the sanctity of life.”

“Pope Francis reminds us that all life has inestimable value – even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor – are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect,” he said. “Always remembering that God is the creator and we are not, I encourage everyone to pray that the world grows in its respect for life, from conception to natural death, and to build awareness to reaffirm the Gospel teaching about the gift of life.”

Perez was part of the delegation that presented the conclusion of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis in September 2019.

Bishop Perez, who chairs the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, told CNA at the time that some of the fruit of Encuentro has been the “emerging leadership, in so many ways, of the next generation of leaders and pastoral lay leaders in the church in the United States,” which he called “really promising and very hopeful.”

“The V Encuentro is really in so many ways the implementation of the joy of the Gospel. So the whole process, the spirit, the mysticism of the spirituality revolves all around the joy of the Gospel,” Bishop Perez said.

Noting that deportations have taken place in the Cleveland diocese, Bishop Perez said one of the blessings of the V Encuentro was that “it comes at a time of that uncertainty and fear and became, in so many ways, a soothing balm where people would come together and support each other, accompany each other and strengthen each other in a very tumultuous time.”

After a June 2018 immigration raid in the diocese, the bishop said the event “makes clear that our current immigration system contributes to the human suffering of migrants and the separation of families.”

While recognizing “the role of our government in enforcing current immigration law,” Bishop Perez also voiced “great sadness for the families whose lives have been disrupted following the large-scale immigration action.”

“The Church is advocating for comprehensive and compassionate reform of our immigration system so that persons are able to obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families. Since this is a responsibility of our Congress, I would encourage you to speak with your legislators advocating for reform of our present system.”

Perez will be installed as the Archbishop of Philadelphia on Feb. 18.


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21 Comments

  1. Many Catholics in the U.S. have been concerned about the episcopal appointments under the current pontificate, especially when one looks to places like Chicago, Newark, and Lexington. But those were in its early years and might have been influenced by the malcontent McCarrick. With him safely out of the way, we might get a less worrisome bench of bishops.

  2. A reflection of the continuing demographic changes in the Latin churches and the sort of clerics who are seen as leading these “American” churches and their political priorities.

  3. It could be worse, Philadelphia. By the standards of bishops today, Perez undoubtedly qualifies as a moderate. He almost certainly was part of the majority who elected Archbishop Gomez as President of the USCCB last fall. He supposedly prevented James Martin from speaking in the diocese last year. He says the right things on abortion and homosexual marriage, although not very often or forcefully. When it comes to the political arena, into which he frequently wades, he is a liberal typical of the Church hierarchy. He will certainly not disappoint Francis on gun control, climate change, welfare, capital punishment, and above all, as the article above makes quite clear, immigration. Again, characteristic of most bishops, his positions are unreflective, ignorant and totally predictable. His signature achievement in Cleveland was his reimposition of the ludicrous policy of having the faithful stand throughout the Communion Rite. May his legacy be short-lived.

    • Perez maybe be the sort of bishop who can better tackle the sex abuse, financial crises and falling Catholic participation in Philadelphia. I love Chaput’s philosophy. I think the mess in Philadelphia was just too much for him. I’m willing to give a moderate liberal a chance to repair the mess.

      Perez, like his fellow brother bishops, lacks political credibility to most Americans including Catholics. Their beliefs on gun control, climate change,… are meaningless; they have no clout with our government officials.

      • I do not all the specifics regarding the mess in Philadelphia, but I would little confidence in Perez’s ability or willingness to clean it up. To do that, you need a bishop who will confront those inside and outside the Church who caused it. Perez is not interested in fighting the establishment, he is part of it.

      • What I meant to type:

        I do not know all the specifics regarding the mess in Philadelphia, but I would have little confidence in Perez’s ability or willingness to clean it up. To do that, you need a bishop who will confront those inside and outside the Church who caused it. Perez is not interested in fighting the establishment, he is part of it.

    • “His signature achievement in Cleveland was his reimposition of the ludicrous policy of having the faithful stand throughout the Communion Rite.”

      Your Excellency, the 80s just called and they’d like their liturgy back.

  4. What a surprise…Pope Francis appoints a new Archbishop of Philadelphia and all we see on hear is complaints about the appointment. Honestly is there anything about the present Holy Father which doesn’t annoy American Catholics?

    • His popularization of the devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

      Is there anything else you can point to that’s commendable and specific?

    • When it comes to the appointment of bishops in the U.S., the Holy Father is only one part of the problem. The American episcopal establishment is a problem as well.

      I have no problem with the local election of bishops, provided that it is the consequence of other necessary preceding reforms of the local diocesan structure. So there is an institutional issue involved too, as well as Pope Francis’s own particular preferences.

    • Have been following Archbishop Chaput (almost forgot that he was a great Franciscan), ever since he was in Colorado — gave one of his books to my RCIA Instructor. If Archbishop Chaput is happy with this appointment, then we need to pray that He will do God’s work in City that needs him.

      • It should be noted that Chaput thought the selection of Jorge Bergoglio was a good thing. It would be out of character for him to express cautious and justified reservations about the choice of Nelson Perez.

  5. It would be so refreshing to hear a bishop actually talk about saving souls and bringing us closer to God. Social workers are good people but they should not be running the Church. Small wonder that so many Catholics know zero theology – even what Communion is. They never hear it from the Church “leaders.”

    • What would bureaucrats know about saving souls and sanctifying them? A more collegial understanding of the “local” Church with an emphasis of collaboration between the presbyters and the bishop, well we supposedly have that already but we don’t, not until there is accountability at all levels with the laity involved in ensuring accountability.

    • Something is happening to the Catholic World Report, it seems to have caved in the modernist Pope et al. and the reformist agenda

      • Huh? Because…? I’ll have to share that with all the progressives on social media who denounce CWR for being the exact opposite of what you say.

      • I would describe CWR as being center-right, to be very politically reductionist about it. It offers a legitimate diversity of high-quality viewpoints within a fairly expansive range. That is a strength, not a weakness. I can and do go to places more consistently in line with my perspective, but I enjoy coming here to read and occasionally debate those who do not see things exactly as I do. There is always room for improvement, but I think Mr. Olson and his team are doing very well overall. Now, if there were only a way for commenters to correct the mistakes they did not notice before posting!

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