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Update: Trump tells March for Life crowd he welcomes their commitment

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump credited attendees at the 47th annual March for Life for their commitment to protect the life of unborn and born children.

"Together we are the voice for the voiceless," Trump told tens of thousands of people gathered at a noontime rally Jan. 24 on the National Mall.

"You stand for life each and every day. You provide housing, education, jobs and medical care for the women that you serve," the president said.

Trump was the first president to speak in person in the 47-year history of the March for Life. He spoke for about 10 minutes at the start of the rally and before attendees began their march to the Supreme Court.

"Today, as president of the United States, I am truly proud to stand with you. We're here for a very simple reason: to defend the right for every child, born and unborn, to fulfill their God-given potential," Trump said.

He also credited the young people who made up a large portion of the crowd for their commitment to life, saying they were "the heart of the March for Life."

"It's your generation that is making this a pro-life nation," the president said, adding, "You are powered by prayer and motivated by pure unselfish love."

Trump's speech before the largely supportive crowd was punctuated by applause and cheers. Calls of "Four more years" welcomed him to the podium.

The pro-life movement has been buoyed by Trump's appointment of two conservative justices to the Supreme Court. Their goal has been a reversal of the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, addressed the rally in a video recorded in Rome prior to Trump's arrival at the rally. Pence met with Pope Francis earlier in the day.

He said in the video that he thanked the pope "for all that he and Catholic Americans have done to defend the sanctity of human life in the history of this movement."

Karen Pence thanked attendees for their witness and compassion for the unborn. "Thank you for standing for life," she said. "We cannot be more proud to be on this journey with you."

The vice president called Trump the "most pro-life president in American history" and a "champion for the movement."

"So keep standing strong and stand with that love and compassion that has always defined the movement for life," Pence said.

Not all participants in the rally agreed with the single-issue stance of Trump and Pence. A group of Franciscan friars and their supporters held signs aloft outside of the security barrier with messages reading "I am 100% Pro-Life." "Care for the Unborn." "Protect the Earth" and "Seek Justice for the Poor."

Franciscan Father Jud Weiksnar, pastor of Sts. Columba Brigid Parish in Buffalo, New York, said he attended the March for Life to encourage people to embrace a wider call in support of life, including care for the environment and peace.

"I'm very deeply convinced that my religious calling calls me to something like the March for Life," he told Catholic News Service in a phone call from a point just off the Mall.

His group included about 20 people, among them priests, men in formation and laypeople.

His friend, Franciscan Father Jacek Orzechowski of Maryland, said he joined the march and rally "to remind others about what it means to be authentically pro-life."

"It's not enough to say that a person is against abortion, but especially about other concerns at this time when we as humanity are standing on the verge of ecological catastrophe," he explained. "I'm not willing to fall into a false choice in caring four our common home or caring for the unborn."

Rally-goers also heard from members of Congress and several other speakers, including women who survived attempted abortions, over the course of an hour following the president's appearance.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, urged the audience to support the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act that has been introduced in Congress. The bill would ensure that any child born alive after an abortion received medical care. It would also institute penalties for doctors who allow such infants to die or who intentionally kill a newborn.

He said he is working to bring the bill to a vote in the House of Representatives by filing a discharge petition, meaning it would by pass committee action and go directly to the full House. He said 204 House members have signed the petition -- all 197 Republicans and seven Democrats -- and that he is working to gain 14 more Democrats to gain a majority that would force a vote on the bill. He encouraged those at the rally to contact their member of Congress to express support for the petition and the bill.

At times the rally turned to politics as speakers called on rally-goers to vote for pro-life candidates in the upcoming presidential election. They also complimented Trump for his appointment of 187 federal conservative judges who are more likely to support restrictions on abortion.

"We are at a pivotal moment for the pro-life movement and this great nation," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life education organization, in crediting legislative efforts nationwide to limit abortion.

She encouraged the crowd to "go for the win" and "put the will of the people into law" in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court in the November election. "It's the most consequential for the cause of the unborn," she said.

In brief remarks, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, noted how there have been incremental steps to end abortion throughout the nation.

"We're making progress," Smith said. "Be very encouraged. With the help of ultrasound imaging, we will tirelessly struggle to ensure that unborn children are no longer invisible, trivialized, mocked, dehumanized and killed."

Smith, who co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, credited the crowd for their activism that has resulted in "countless" women and babies who have been spared "the violence of abortion and today live, love and thrive."

Others addressing the rally included Elisa Martinez, founder of New Mexico Alliance for Life and co-chair of Native Americans for Life, and Democratic Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson.



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Update: Pope, Pence meet at the Vatican

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After Pope Francis and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met privately for nearly an hour at the Vatican, Pence told the pope that his Roman Catholic mother will be pleased with the visit.

"Thank you, Your Holiness. You have made me a hero," said Pence, who was raised Catholic but became an evangelical Christian.

The vice president, along with his wife Karen and daughter-in-law Sarah, arrived 10 minutes early for the meeting with the pope Jan. 24. They were welcomed by Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, regent of the papal household.

As the pope and Pence sat down in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, the vice president relayed greetings from U.S. President Donald Trump, who met with the pope in 2017.

"I wanted to extend the warmest greeting on behalf of President Donald Trump who so enjoyed his visit here," Pence told the pope before reporters were ushered from the room.

After speaking with Pence for 59 minutes, with interpreters present, the pope greeted those accompanying the vice president on his visit, including Callista Gingrich, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See; her husband, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; and Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Pence's national security adviser.

Pence then presented the pope with a wooden cross "made from a tree at the vice president's residence."

"Every other vice president since Walter Mondale has lived" at the residence, he told the pope.

The pope then presented a medallion, describing it as "angel of peace" conquering "the demon of war."

Additionally, he gave Pence copies of several of his documents, which he jokingly called "a Vatican library." The documents included "The Joy of the Gospel" on evangelization, "Amoris Laetitia" on the family, and "Laudato Si,'" on the environment.

Pope Francis also gave the vice president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2020.

"Here, I prepared for you the message for peace," the pope said. "I signed it personally for you."

Neither the Vatican nor the vice president's office were expected to issue a statement on the issues discussed in their private meeting. However, Pence tweeted that the two discussed "today's March for Life, Venezuela, and displaced religious minorities in the Middle East."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Pope Francis 'has our backs' on pro-life cause, says archbishop

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis "has our backs" in the pro-life cause, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said to applause in his Jan. 23 homily at the opening Mass of the National Vigil for Life.

During an "ad limina" meeting with bishops from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska the week before, Archbishop Naumann said Pope Francis had told them, "If we do not defend life, no other rights matter."

"The Holy Father said that abortion is first a human rights issue," added Archbishop Naumann in his homily, delivered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

"Pope Francis was aware of the March for Life in the United States and was delighted to know the anticipated large numbers of pilgrims, especially the participation of so many young people," said Archbishop Naumann, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Although the "ad limina" meeting was confidential so that the pope and the bishops could speak freely, Pope Francis "encouraged me -- I dare say, ordered me -- 'Please tell the pilgrims at the March for Life and the entire pro-life community: The pope is with you! He is praying for you!'" the archbishop said.

"God and 14 other bishops are my witnesses that Pope Francis was passionate in support of the church's pro-life efforts. The successor of Peter has our backs."

Archbishop Naumann dwelt mainly in his homily on what he called a "moral 'Twilight Zone,'" based on an episode of the old television science-fiction series in which surgeons worked time and again to repair a young woman's disfigured face through plastic surgery. After the final operation, he recalled, the bandages were removed from the woman's face and she is "stunningly, drop-dead beautiful."

Surprisingly, the surgical team apologizes for their failure. "They remove their own surgical masks revealing their own grotesquely hideous appearance," Archbishop Naumann said. "You begin to realize that in this fictional 'Twilight Zone' world, beautiful is ugly and the hideous is gorgeous."

Such it is with abortion in American society, he asserted. "The killing of one's child is exalted as heroic and brave," he said. "Abortion was described by early feminists Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul as the ultimate exploitation of women, but in this ethically topsy-turvy twilight zone, it is now hailed as the cornerstone of women's rights."

He told the worshippers, estimated at 10,000, inside the basilica, "Jesus never promised that discipleship would be easy. He told his first disciples that in order to follow him they must be willing to take up their cross."

Archbishop Naumann added, "In this cultural, moral twilight zone to stand for the sanctity of the lives of unborn children, you may face ridicule and social exclusion. You may be penalized in the academy and workplace."

But he cited "signs of hope," garnering applause when he talked about "our nation's youth being more pro-life than their parents." Archbishop Naumann said, "There is also reason to hope the United States Supreme Court, which imposed by judicial fiat our current liberal abortion policy, may be poised to return to states a greater ability to protect the lives of unborn children" through the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that allowed legal abortion virtually on demand.

Archbishop Naumann also heralded the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II's encyclical "The Gospel of Life," St. John Paul "did not make reference to any 'Twilight Zone' episodes," he noted, but he said in the encyclical, "When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul, calls evil good and good evil, it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness."

"Freedom separated from truth," Archbishop Naumann warned, "in the end creates a tyrant state that allows and even encourages the disposal of life when it is weakest."

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Bishops express sorrow, support after U.S. firefighters die in Australia

IMAGE: CNS photo/AAP Image, Coulson Aviation via Reuters


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Representatives of the U.S. bishops expressed sorrow after three U.S. firefighters died in an air crash while fighting bushfires in Australia.

"As the people of Australia continue to endure terrible fires, let us renew our prayer and generosity. Today, the suffering was brought even closer to home with the loss of three brave American crew members who died in the crash of a tanker airplane used in fighting wildfires in Australia. We join in prayerful solidarity with their families and with all the people of Australia and all those in regions affected by these terrible fires," said a statement from Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The three Americans were among eight firefighters and 31 people total who have died in the wildfires since September.

The Americans, all military veterans, were identified as Capt. Ian H. McBeth, 44, of Great Falls, Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Buckeye, Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., 43 of Navarre, Florida. They died when the C-130 aerial water tanker they were in crashed in New South Wales.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who are suffering from this tragedy and from the disaster these dedicated professionals were fighting. In our prayer, we recall in trust that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, offering himself to us and calling us to himself even in our hardest hour," said the statement from Archbishop Coakley and Bishop Malloy.

They also encouraged Catholics "and all appropriate parties to be generous in their financial support of these recovery efforts. We pray for the safety and well-being of those affected and those fighting the fires, and hope for the eventual restoration of the homes and natural habitats that have been destroyed."

Catholic parishes in Australia were set to take a special collection the weekend of Jan. 25-26, with proceeds going to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Australia. The Vinnies, as they are known, also set up an online site for donations -- -- with assurances that credit cards from other countries could be used.

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World Day for Consecrated Life Celebrates the Important Witness of Consecrated Persons in the Church

WASHINGTON – Each year, the Catholic Church celebrates the World Day for Consecrated Life. Instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1997, the celebration is in conjunction with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas Day, commemorating the coming of Christ, the Light of the World, through the symbolic lighting of candles. Similarly, consecrated men and women are called to spread the light and love of Jesus Christ through their unique witness of selfless service, such as caring for the poor, the contemplative work of prayer, or through their professional careers. On February 2, 2020, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to recognize and pray for the essential role of consecrated persons in the life of the Church and to express gratitude for their service to the Church. Similarly, parishes in the United States will also celebrate consecrated life during the weekend of February 1-2 and recognize the essential role of consecrated persons in the life of the Church. As engaged members of their local communities, consecrated men and women bring the presence of Jesus to all they encounter throughout their day, allowing his Spirit to live and move within them so that the truth of the Gospel can be proclaimed to all.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, reiterated the importance of the witness offered by those in consecrated life: “Consecrated men and women are a special treasure in the Church who allow the love of Jesus to become tangible. By dedicating their entire lives to following Christ, consecrated persons are particularly able to reach out to those on the peripheries of our society and bring the message of the Gospel to all those in need.”

Each year, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations asks the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to conduct a survey of those solemnly professed in the United States in the past year. Some of the major findings of this year’s report are:

•  The average age of the profession class of 2019 is 39. Half of the responding religious are age 34 or younger. The youngest is 24 and the oldest is 71.
•  Two-thirds of the responding religious (69 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as white. One in ten (10 percent) identifies as Hispanic, and one in ten (9 percent) identify as Asian.
•  Three in four of responding religious (74 percent) were born in the United States. Of those born outside the United States, the most common country of origin is the Philippines.  
•  Twenty-five percent of responding religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute. Three-fourths (74 percent) entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree (77 percent for women and 69 percent for men).
•  Around nine in ten responding religious (89 percent) served in one or more church ministries before entering their religious institute, most commonly as a lector (51 percent), altar server (44 percent), or Extraordinary Minister of Communion (42 percent).
•  On average, responding religious report that they were 19 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger when they first did so.  
•  Nine in ten responding religious (91 percent) regularly participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. Three-fifths or more participated in Eucharistic Adoration or prayed the rosary before entering. Nearly six in ten participated in spiritual direction or retreats before entering.

The full survey from CARA, as well as resources for use by parishes are available at:  
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, World Day for Consecrated Life, Bishop James F. Checchio, Diocese of Metuchen, Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Presentation of the Lord, Candlemas Day, Charism, Consecrated Life, Vocations, Women Religious, Men Religious, Profession Class of 2019, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, CARA, Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis, Vatican, Eucharistic Adoration, rosary, spiritual direction, retreats.

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


Bishop Chairmen Strongly Commend Administration for Action to Enforce Federal Conscience Law

WASHINGTON—On January 24th, on the occasion of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the Trump Administration announced that it is taking steps to enforce the Weldon Amendment, a federal law that prohibits discrimination by states against health insurance plans that do not cover abortion. In 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care began forcing all employers—even churches—to fund and facilitate elective abortions in their health plans in direct violation of the Weldon amendment. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, issued the following statement in response to this enforcement action:

“Today’s announcement is extraordinarily good news for the right to life, conscientious objection, religious freedom and the rule of law. For nearly six years, employers in California—including churches—have been forced to fund and facilitate abortions in their health insurance plans in direct violation of a federal conscience protection law known as the Weldon amendment. This coercive California policy is abhorrent, unjust and illegal. We strongly commend the Trump Administration for taking this critical action to enforce federal law and correct this supreme injustice to the people and employers of California. Sadly, violations of federal conscience laws are on the rise. We hope that this enforcement action, and subsequent actions by the Administration, will stop further unlawful discrimination against people who reject abortion as a violation of the most basic human and civil rights.”

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Bishop George V. Murry, S.J, Committee for Religious Liberty, Weldon Amendment, Trump Administration.

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


Archbishop Chaput says successor is 'exactly the man our church needs'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPh

By Matthew Gambino

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Proclaiming his successor as "exactly the man our church needs," Archbishop Charles J. Chaput introduced Bishop Nelson J. Perez, whom Pope Francis named as the next archbishop of Philadelphia, at a Jan. 23 news conference in Philadelphia.

He will be installed as archbishop Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

The pope had announced the appointment while accepting the resignation of Archbishop Chaput, who last September turned 75, the age at which canon law requires that bishops turn in their resignation to the pope.

Anticipation for his successor had been building intensely in the archdiocese since that time, and judging by the applause in the room filled with more than 100 archdiocesan staff, it was a warm welcome home for Archbishop Perez, 58, currently the bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland.

He described his appointment as a "surreal moment" for a former priest of the archdiocese to be named its new shepherd.

Archbishop Perez is the first archbishop of Philadelphia of Hispanic heritage; his parents emigrated from Cuba and he was born in Miami in 1961. He also is the first native son to be archbishop of Philadelphia since Archbishop (later Cardinal) Dennis Dougherty in the early 20th century.

And at 58, he is the youngest archbishop since Cardinal John Krol arrived in Philadelphia in 1961 at age 50.

Cleveland and Philadelphia also share a renewed bond in that the new archbishop led that diocese and Cardinal Krol was an auxiliary bishop there before being appointed to Philadelphia.

Archbishop Perez was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1989 and one of his ordination classmates joined him at the news conference: Father Gary Pacitti, pastor of St. Basil the Great in Kimberton. Archbishop Perez referred to him not only as a friend but "like my brother."

It was a sentiment that he extended to all his brother priests of the archdiocese and he would mention the strong priestly fellowship here several times during his remarks.

"You know, once a Philadelphia priest, always a Philadelphia priest," he said. "So the part of me that has that identity inside of me cannot wrap its head around being the Archbishop of Philadelphia. It doesn't compute. But it is what the Lord wants and what the Holy Father wants."

He said it is "awesome" to return Philadelphia with people who are faith-filled, who love the Lord, love the church. So I'm grateful to the Holy Father for placing this huge trust in me that I really don't deserve."

After studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and his priestly ordination, then-Father Perez served at St. Ambrose Parish in Philadelphia, worked in ministry to Hispanic Catholics of the archdiocese and led two parishes, St. William in Philadelphia and St. Agnes in West Chester, before he was ordained an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Center, New York.

In 2017, he was named bishop of Cleveland and at the news conference he praised the people of that diocese, especially its Catholic young adults who "were a great source of joy" for him. He added that he "hoped to reach out to the young adults here" in Philadelphia.

Archbishop Perez also singled out praise for Archbishop Chaput, whom he called a friend and mentor.

Acknowledging the challenges of the past eight years in Philadelphia ranging from parish and school closures to financial crises to a wounded morale for both clergy and laity due to the sexual abuse crisis, Archbishop Chaput confronted them "with great courage and steadfastness," Archbishop Perez said.

"I watched it from afar (and) learned from him, how steadfast he was and with profound faith that while things were tough, that God would make a way, that somehow, someway all things happen for the good of those who love God, as St. Paul said."

Even in the midst of criticism, "I saw him make tough decisions, many times like a father. He made calls that today have placed the archdiocese in a way better place. We owe him a profound debt along with our gratitude (and) our love," Archbishop Perez said, inviting everyone to applaud his predecessor.

After the installation Mass, Archbishop Chaput will begin his retirement. For the first three months, he will have no public appointments as he takes up residence at St. Edmond's Home for Children, an archdiocesan facility in Rosemont for children with intellectual and physical disabilities.

After that period, he said, he will assist Archbishop Perez as needed and accept some writing and speaking engagements.

In his remarks Archbishop Perez offered a special greeting in Spanish to the Hispanic Catholics of the archdiocese, encouraging them in "a missionary church, in the life of our community and in the truth of the Gospel," he said.

He had previously served in diocesan-wide ministry to Latino Catholics in the 1990s and as pastor led two archdiocesan parishes with significant Hispanic populations.

He did not leave the clergy sexual abuse scandal unaddressed. "I and we continue to pray for your healing," he said of victims abused by members of the church, "and we hold deep within our hearts those who have been hurt. It never should have happened, and we are sorry."

Archbishop Perez appeared to describe his vision for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as he cited the words of Pope Francis, calling for "a community of missionary disciples" that will be "ever vibrant and powerful in the church here in Philadelphia," a community that "takes initiative" and is "engaged in the world around it, accompanies with the truth of the Gospel, is fruitful and is joyful."

Acknowledging the challenges of the present and the future that he may face in Philadelphia, Archbishop Perez said he was not afraid to "do what needs to be done for the good of the family."

Although the church has "gone through difficult moments in the last two decades, heart-wrenching moments ... the church is still here because the church is Christ. We (members of the church) come and go. The mystical body of Christ, the church, has to deal with us in our humanity, and we're complex human beings. But God works through us. So I have great hope for the church, despite everything you read."

He offered an encouragement to his listeners at the news conference and those watching it livestreamed on the internet: "Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, through you, and despite you," he said.

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Gambino is director and general manager of, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Update: Archbishop Chaput retires; pope names Bishop Perez successor

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput 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 turn in their resignation to the pope. Archbishop 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 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."

Archbishop Perez will be installed in ceremonies set for 2 p.m., Feb. 18 at at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

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.

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Matthew Gambino in Philadelphia contributed to this story.



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Excerpt of retired pope's essay on priesthood and celibacy

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ignatius Press


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The following is a short excerpt from the essay, "The Catholic Priesthood," by retired Pope Benedict XVI. The essay appears in the book "From the Depths of Our Hearts," a defense of priestly celibacy written by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, with the contribution of Pope Benedict. Ignatius Press, which authorized publication of the excerpt, will release the book in English in February.

In the common awareness of Israel, priests were strictly obliged to observe sexual abstinence during the times when they led worship and were therefore in contact with the divine mystery. The relation between sexual abstinence and divine worship was absolutely clear in the common awareness of Israel. By way of example, I wish to recall the episode about David, who, while fleeing Saul, asked the priest Ahimelech to give him some bread: "The priest answered David, 'I have no common bread at hand, but there is holy bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.' And David answered the priest, 'Of a truth women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition'" (1 Sam 21:4-5). Since the priests of the Old Testament had to dedicate themselves to worship only during set times, marriage and the priesthood were compatible.

But because of the regular and often even daily celebration of the Eucharist, the situation of the priests of the church of Jesus Christ has changed radically. From now on, their entire life is in contact with the divine mystery. This requires on their part exclusivity with regard to God. Consequently, this excludes other ties that, like marriage, involve one's whole life. From the daily celebration of the Eucharist, which implies a permanent state of service to God, was born spontaneously the impossibility of a matrimonial bond. We can say that the sexual abstinence that was functional was transformed automatically into an ontological abstinence. Thus, its motivation and its significance were changed from within and profoundly.

Nowadays some scholars too readily make the facile statement that all this was just the result of a contempt for corporeality and sexuality. The critique claiming that priestly celibacy was founded on a Manichaean concept of the world was formulated as early as the fourth century. This critique was immediately rejected, however, in a decisive way by the Fathers of the Church, who put an end to it for a certain time. Such a judgment (of consecrated celibacy) is wrong. To prove this, it is enough to recall that the church has always considered marriage as a gift granted by God ever since the earthly paradise. However, the married state involves a man in his totality, and since serving the Lord likewise requires the total gift of a man, it does not seem possible to carry on the two vocations simultaneously. Thus, the ability to renounce marriage so as to place oneself totally at the Lord's disposition became a criterion for priestly ministry.

As for the concrete form of celibacy in the early church, it is advisable also to emphasize that married men could not receive the sacrament of Holy Orders unless they had pledged to observe sexual abstinence, therefore, to live in a so-called "Josephite" marriage, like the marriage of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. Such a situation seems to have been altogether normal over the course of the first centuries. There were a sufficient number of men and women who considered it reasonable and possible to live in this way while together dedicating themselves to the Lord.


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