Pope Francis Appoints New Bishop for Cleveland Diocese

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At noontime in Rome today (Tues) Pope Francis announced the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese.  He is 56 year old Nelson Perez who has been serving the past 5 years as Auxiliary Bishop in Long Island New York.

As the 11th bishop of the diocese, Nelson Perez will oversee a flock of 677,000 Catholics in the Cleveland Diocese.  He’ll have to bring together a diverse group after a conservative Pope and now a moderately liberal pope. But Perez says he doesn’t like to use those categories.  

“To me the Holy Father is speaking the gospel. He’s talking about the gospel and the tradition of the church and really holding fast to it.  That he puts his own spin on it ? Absolutely -  but so did Pope Benedict, so did John Paul II. “   

Bishop Perez says “the Holy Spirit gives the Church the pope that it needs at the time that it needs it.”

The last 5 years he lived in a mostly Polish parish.  He said he is excited by the ethnic diversity of the 8 county Cleveland Diocese.

“As I said to Francis last year in Rome ‘I was made in Cuba and unpackaged here,' in Miami, for 6 months later I was born in Florida.”  

You may tell from his accent that he grew up in New Jersey,  within sight of the New York City skyline.   He once taught school in Puerto Rico and said hello to the Cleveland Hispanic community in Spanish.

“Deseo expresar un saludo y carinoso al pueblo Hispano de esta diocesis. Es con gran alegria que vengo hoy a comenzar mi camino como Obispo entre ustedes. “   

[I wish to express a warm and affectionate greeting to the Hispanic people of this diocese. It is with great joy that I come today to begin my journey as Bishop among you.]

Perez (R) and Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas (L) have known each other since both were priests in Philadelphia. Thomas has been serving as Apostolic Administrator in Cleveland. (urycki/ideastream)

Bishop Nelson Perez says he wants a church that is “joyful”  much like the man who appointed him, Pope Francis. In a noontime mass at Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral at 9th and Superior in downtown Cleveland, Perez put it this way in his homily.

“While there are challenges and issues and problems and we all like to talk about all that stuff.  The Christian looks at all of that.  The Christian missionary disciple looks at that all with joy.”

Past Catholic bishops in Cleveland have gotten involved in what seemed like secular issues such as urban sprawl.   Perez told reporters the church is interested in the world in which it lives.

“We live in the midst of that world; we’re not separate from it.  Brings the gift and the wealth of its wisdom, its faith, its hope, and this incredible treasure of the social teachings of the church that can enlighten and strengthen and guide. “

Perez says he wants his church members to be “missionary disciples” and be active in the community as the pope suggests.

“He uses these 5 words: a church that is proactive, a church that is involved in the life of people, a church that accompanies, a church that is fruitful, a church that is joyful.”  

When  he first walked into the cathedral Monday evening Perez said "Wow, the pictures on the internet don't even come close."

Former  Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon retired due to illness.  The Bishop of Toledo, Daniel Thomas, has been serving since then as Apostolic Administrator.  Perez will be officially installed as bishop September 5th and says in the meantime he hopes to meet people. He says you find him walking around by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame “that I understand is very close?”   


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