WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia and has appointed Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland as his successor.
Archbishop Chaput, who has headed the Philadelphia Archdiocese since 2011, turned 75 last September, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignations to the pope. Archbishop-Elect Perez, 58, was installed as the 11th bishop of Cleveland Sept. 5, 2017.
The resignation and appointment were announced in Washington Jan. 23 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
The new archbishop said he was looking forward to returning to the archdiocese where he was ordained as a priest.
“I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for this appointment and his confidence in me,” Archbishop-Elect Perez said in a statement released by the Diocese of Cleveland. “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 … and sadness that I will be leaving an area and the incredible people in Northeast Ohio I have come to love deeply.”
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Archbishop Chaput praised his successor and asked for the faithful to join in him in praying for the new archbishop.
“Bishop Nelson Perez is a man who already knows and loves the Church in Philadelphia and is already known and loved by our priests and people,” Archbishop Chaput wrote. “I cannot think of a better successor to lead this Archdiocese.”
Archbishop-Elect Perez will be installed in ceremonies set for 2 p.m., Feb. 18 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. He will be the first Hispanic to lead the 212-year-old jurisdiction, and will be the only U.S.-born Hispanic archbishop actively serving. The other two present active Hispanic archbishops, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio were both born in Mexico.
He was born in Miami June 16, 1961, to David and Emma Perez and is the brother of the late Dr. David Perez and Louis Martin Perez. He was raised in West New York, New Jersey and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Montclair State University in 1983.
After entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, he earned Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in theology degrees in 1988 and 1989, respectively. He was ordained a priest for Philadelphia May 20, 1989.
He ministered as a parochial vicar at St. Ambrose Parish in Philadelphia; was assistant director of the archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Catholics; founding director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization; pastor of St. William Parish in Philadelphia; and pastor of St. Agnes Parish in West Chester.
His work in education included teaching psychology and religious studies at La Salle University and developmental psychology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
Named a monsignor by St. John Paul II in 1998 and a prelate of honor by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, in 2012.
As a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Perez is chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church and formerly chaired the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs. He also served as the lead bishop for the V Encuentro process for the USCCB and is a former member of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
He currently serves as a member of the Administrative Committee and the religious liberty committee for the USCCB. In November 2018, he began a three-year term as the bishop liaison for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.
Ordained as a Capuchin Franciscan priest Aug. 29, 1970, Archbishop Chaput went on to become bishop of Rapid City in 1988, then archbishop of Denver in 1997, before arriving in Philadelphia in 2011. He was the second priest of Native American ancestry to become a bishop, after the late Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, New Mexico, and the first to become an archbishop.
As archbishop of Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput hosted Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to the United States in 2015 to attend the World Meeting of Families.
Archbishop Chaput has also visited Phoenix on several occasions. Most recently he celebrated Mass at the Student Leadership Summit Jan. 2, and prior to that he delivered the keynote address at the 2018 Catholic Men’s Conference. As a priest, he was among a group of Native Americans who greeted St. John Paul II for the pontiff’s historic apostolic visit in 1987.
The retiring archbishop has become notable for his role in promoting the Catholic voice in the public sphere, having authored the books “Render Unto Caesar” and “Strangers in a Strange Land.”
Matthew Gambino in Philadelphia contributed to this story.