From our Vatican Cheese Steak and Pastelitos Bureau
One of the largest dioceses in the United States now has a Hispanic bishop.
Of course, this is how the news media is already spinning its narrative. This is all about diversity and the victimhood of “people of colour,” even those whose skin tone is disappointingly light.
Never mind the fact that there’s a lot more to life and to religion than that, just as there is a lot more to Philadelphia than cheese steaks and more to Miami than pastelitos de guayaba.
Nelson Perez was born in Miami in 1961 to a Cuban refugee family that moved north to Niuyersi, and he grew up in the Cuban exile enclave of Guesniuyor (West New York).
North Jersey once had the second highest concentration of Cuban exiles, topped only by Miami.
Babalu’s favorite newspaper, El Niuyortain, is beaming with delight. Its headline,”Pope Francis Replaces Conservative Bishop of Philadelphia,” tells the whole story, as seen through its myopic lens, and its article begins by stressing that the bishop he is replacing often criticized Pope Francis.
The left-leaning Jesuit publication America also stresses his likeness to Pope Francis.
Let’s see what happens next. It seems that the usual suspects in the Catholic Church and the news media will want to peg him as a Hispanic “liberal”… the only kind of “Latinx” they’re willing to tolerate.
A quick internet search yielded no insight into his spiritual life or his theological leanings.
None of the many articles scanned by our resident church historian Tres Fotutos mentions the fact that Archbishop Perez — who is only 58 — now has a good chance of becoming a Cardinal, and perhaps also of being elected pope at some future conclave.
Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Nelson J. Perez, the 58-year-old son of Cuban exiles, as the new archbishop of Philadelphia, the Vatican announced today. He becomes the third Hispanic archbishop in the United States and the first to serve in this archdiocese.
He will succeed Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., for many years a leading figure in the church in the United States, who did not always fully share Pope Francis’ vision, as he made clear publicly on a number of occasions. Archbishop Chaput, who has headed the archdiocese for eight years and has been a bishop for 32, handed in his letter of resignation upon turning 75 last September, as all bishops are required to do.
“The new archbishop is a man who fully shares the vision of Pope Francis and in so many ways is very much like him,” a prelate who knows him well but asked to remain anonymous told America after the Vatican broke the news at noon on Jan. 23. The same source said it is “highly significant” that the pope has chosen a Hispanic archbishop for this important diocese with over one million members, many of whom are Hispanic, and some 500 priests.
During his visit to Rome last September, as part of a delegation of U.S. bishops and lay people led by Archbishop José Gomez to present Pope Francis with the “Proceedings and Conclusions of the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry,” Bishop Perez told America, “The Hispanic population is already the largest minority group in the United States, but it is a diverse group because they come from 23 different cultures and countries and different migrations over time.” He said he envisaged that in 10 to 20 years “probably more than 50 percent of the Catholic population of the U.S. will be Hispanic.”
Pope Francis had time to get to know this friendly and outgoing bishop on that occasion and learned that he shares the vision of “The Joy of the Gospel,” his papacy’s programmatic document. He met the bishop again on Dec. 10, 2019, when the bishops from Ohio and Michigan spent time with the pope during their “ad limina” visit.
In addition to all this, Francis knows that Bishop Perez has spoken out strongly on the problem of racism. He recently participated in a major public event in Cleveland, with many faith leaders, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., a figure also much admired by Pope Francis.
Francis appointed him as bishop of Cleveland, Ohio, on July 11, 2017, and today named him the 10th archbishop of Philadelphia, a diocese that the pope visited for the World Meeting of Families in 2015.
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