Pope Francis Replaces Conservative Archbishop of Philadelphia

New York Times

January 23, 2020

By Elizabeth Dias and Jason Horowitz

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, has long been known as a theological and political conservative, often at odds with Pope Francis.

Washington – Pope Francis, facing growing conservative opposition to his papacy from Catholics in the United States, on Thursday replaced the popular archbishop of Philadelphia, one of his most prominent critics and a prelate admired by church traditionalists.

Pope Francis announced in a statement that he had accepted the resignation of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who had reached retirement age, and that he would elevate Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland, a Cuban-American born in Miami and relative newcomer to the national scene, to the role.

The move is a sign that the pope, who has installed key allies in Chicago and Newark, is still intent on changing the ideological direction of the American church by setting a new tone in one of its most traditionalist dioceses.

Though Archbishop Chaput will move to an emeritus role, he plans to maintain an active speaking presence around the country. That means he will almost certainly remain influential as a prominent conservative thought leader in the church.

[Perez] also acknowledged the complexities of his new assignment, apologizing directly to victims of clergy sexual abuse, and he addressed Hispanic Catholics, at times in Spanish, raising concerns about anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.

Archbishop Chaput was also a firm administrator, tapped to reform a region in financial and spiritual disarray after extensive allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy in the area. A county grand jury in 2005 reported that leaders of the Philadelphia archdiocese, including two cardinals, had covered up extensive sexual abuse of minors.

A second grand jury in 2011 accused the archdiocese of not stopping the abuse, and Pope Benedict appointed Archbishop Chaput to lead the archdiocese about five months later.

Archbishop Chaput removed priests accused of abuse, closed 49 schools and sold the archbishop’s mansion for $10 million as part of a plan to reduce the operating budget deficit.

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