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Ohio's Largest Catholic Diocese Gets Its First Hispanic Bishop

New Bishop of Cleveland, Nelson Perez
Infant Jesus Church, Port Jefferson, NY
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Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center, New York

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.

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Cleveland, OH
Credit The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland
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The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland
Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Built in 1848

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 that at a press conference this morning, but says 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."

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

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

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

Bishop Nelson Perez
Credit Catholic Diocese of Cleveland
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Catholic Diocese of Cleveland
Bishop Nelson Perez delivering his first homely in Cleveland

“I’ve been getting texts and calls and emails since 6 o’clock this morning. Thank God I got up early.

"And they all had this theme: 'Congratulations. Cleveland Rocks!'”