The next Archbishop of Philadelphia said Thursday that he is glad for a homecoming to his native archdiocese, that he is inspired by the example of his predecessor, and that he aims to make pastoral presence the hallmark of his spiritual leadership.
Archbishop-elect Nelson Perez of Philadelphia said at a press conference Jan. 23 he is inspired by the “steadfastness” and “profound faith” of Archbishop Charles Chaput, his predecessor.
“I watched it from afar, learned from him—just watching him—how steadfast he was, and with profound faith, that while things were tough that God would make a way,” Archbishop-elect Perez said of Archbishop Chaput who served as Philadelphia’s archbishop since 2011, “that somehow, someway, all things happen for the good of those who love God, as St. Paul said.”
“And he did that many times even in the midst of criticism,” he added, “but he was steadfast in his love for you and his love for the Church.”
On Thursday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput—submitted, according to Church practice, on his 75th birthday in September—and selected one of Philadelphia’ former priests, Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland, as Archbishop Chaput’s replacement.
Archbishop-elect Perez’s installation Mass will be Feb. 18 at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Archbishop-elect Perez served as Cleveland’s bishop since 2017, after serving five years as auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, New York.
When he is installed as archbishop, Archbishop-elect Perez will oversee almost 1.3 million Catholics and 214 parishes in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia archdiocese will likely face parish and school closures in the months to come. Archbishop-elect Perez acknowledged he will need to make decisions about those matters soon.
When asked by CNA on Thursday about his pastoral ministry, Archbishop-elect Perez began with one word: “presence.”
“I’m certainly not going to sit behind a desk. The role of the bishop is to be out and about,” he said, noting that in Cleveland he estimated he spent around 60% of his time visiting parishes and meeting with young people.
Outgoing Archbishop Chaput was often characterized in the press as a “culture warrior” who took “conservative” positions on controversial issues. The New York Times on Thursday suggested Archbishop Chaput’s successor would embody a different vision for the Church in Philadelphia.
Archbishop-elect Perez balked at any notion that he and Chaput are at odds as bishops.
“We both definitely walk with the Church,” he told CNA.
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