Philadelphia Inquirer via MSN
January 24, 2020
By Mike Newall
It seems Pope Francis was paying close attention when he rolled through Philly in 2015. Maybe the Rocky theme that greeted him at the airport got stuck in his head. Maybe he thought back to it when it came time to choose our new archbishop, and thought: A town like this needs a native son.
a man holding a microphone: Bishop Nelson J. Perez, who was named to lead the Philadelphia Archdiocese, holds the crucifix that hangs around his neck. It was given to him by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, when he was first made a bishop.
And in Bishop Nelson Perez, named Thursday as the new leader of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, we get that — or pretty close to it.
The son of Cuban immigrants, he grew up in Jersey and served as a priest for two decades in the Philadelphia area, including stints in Olney and Lawncrest. It is almost certain that our new prelate has strong, long-held opinions on our sports teams, our cultural touchstones, our culinary heritage. By which I mean, he’s definitely got a favorite cheesesteak spot, and there’s something very comforting in that.
More comforting though, is that, in addition to speaking Philly’s language, Perez speaks Francis’ language. Literally — as one of few American bishops who can speak to the pope in his native Spanish tongue — and figuratively.
Unlike his predecessor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, a staunch conservative gifted with the ability of saying the exact wrong thing at so many times of crisis and challenge, Perez talks about the church as it should be: universal. Chaput seemed at every opportunity to draw a line in the pews: These are the beliefs. You’re either with us or against us. Perez has said that the diversity of the church is its greatest strength.
Hopefully that means us wayward Catholics, too. The ones who have watched in dismay as our current archbishop has too often kowtowed to President Trump — calling on us to support a man who has no concern for morality, or religion, or the immigrants who make up so much of Philadelphia’s church.
So, perhaps our new archbishop will walk us into the 21st century. Perez has spoken out against Trump, and he’s backed it up with actions: Directly intervening in a migrant’s deportation case with a personal call to ICE. While Chaput railed against “perverted freedoms,” Perez has confronted the president, saying the nation had lost its moral compass.
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