CLEVELAND, Ohio – Bishop-designate Nelson J. Perez, born in Miami but most recently serving in New York state, has been named the new leader of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.
Pope Francis’ decree was made public this morning and the new bishop will be introduced at a 9 a.m. news conference.
He will also celebrate the noon mass in downtown Cleveland. Both events will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist at East 9th Street and Superior Avenue.
Perez replaces Bishop Richard Lennon, who announced his retirement in December after his diagnosis with vascular dementia.
Perez will be installed as the 11th bishop of the Cleveland diocese in September, according to a statement released by the diocese this morning.
“I am so very happy to be here with you, to learn from you, grow with you, and serve you with pastoral devotion,” Perez said in the statement. “Please don’t hesitate to say hello, if you see me as I venture out, eager to experience my new home. God bless you, all!”
Perez, 56, was born in Miami in 1961 to Cuban parents who had fled the government of Fidel Castro almost two years earlier, Newsday.com reported.
He has a degree in psychology from Montclair State University in New Jersey. He taught elementary school in Puerto Rico before attending seminary. He was ordained as a priest in Philadelphia in 1989.
In 1998, he was named a chaplain to His Holiness by Pope John Paul II and Prelate of Honor in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI, Long Island Catholic reported.
In June 2012, Perez was named auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y. Perez served as the Episcopal Vicar for the Eastern Vicariate and Vicar for Hispanic Ministry. He served as a member of the Corporate Board of Directors for Catholic Health Services; Vice Chair of Catholic Charities; Priests Personnel Board, the Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan Advisory Committee for Hispanic Ministry.
“I was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 20, 1989. I certainly never imagined then, that I would one day serve as auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Centre and now, here today, to begin my service as your bishop,” Perez told Newsday.
Bishop Daniel E. Thomas has served as the apostolic administrator for Cleveland’s diocese while the Vatican completed its search for a leader for the eight-county region. Thomas is the bishop of the Toledo diocese. He will continue to oversee Cleveland until Perez is installed.
“In Bishop Nelson Perez, the Diocese of Cleveland is receiving a faithful, enthusiastic and joyful shepherd for Christ and His Church,” Thomas said in the Diocese statement.
The Cleveland Catholic Diocese includes eight northeast Ohio counties. It has a total population of 2.7 million of which 677,219, or 24 percent, are Catholic.
The diocese will livestream the 9 a.m. press conference.
Congratulations are being posted on Twitter from churches and supporters.