Pope Francis Appoints First Hispanic Bishop To Ohio's Largest Catholic Diocese

Jul 12, 2017

The next leader of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is a Miami-born son of Cuban immigrants now serving as auxiliary bishop of a diocese on Long Island, N.Y


Bishop Nelson Perez will become the 11th bishop in the 170-year history of the Cleveland Diocese. He replaces Bishop Richard Lennon, who retired late last year after being diagnosed with vascular dementia.

Lennon's tenure included church closings and doctrinal controversies. 

Perez did not speak of those controversies at a press conference Tuesday morning, but said he understands the responsibility Pope Francis is bestowing on him and what the pontiff wants.

“He uses these five 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," Perez said.

Though born in Florida, Perez grew up in New Jersey, near New York City, and was ordained in Philadelphia.

Tuesday morning's press conference was at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland, where he later celebrated his first Mass.

The Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Cleveland.
Credit Diocese of Cleveland

At the press conference, Perez said he feels blessed to have been appointed by Pope Francis.

“I’ve been getting texts and calls and emails since 6 o’clock this morning. Thank God I got up early," Perez said. "And they all had this theme: 'Congratulations. Cleveland Rocks!'”