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.