PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a big day for Catholics as thousands attended the installation mass Tuesday for new Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. It was a ceremony and mass filled with plenty of pomp and circumstance.
Perez, who spent many years here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, says he is thrilled to return to Philadelphia. Prior to the installation, Perez said he wasn’t nervous.
“God is a God of surprises.”
Archbishop-Designate Nelson Perez talked with reporters, and personally greeted the Papal Nuncio outside the Cathedral moments ago. Perez says he isn’t nervous at all. @CBSPhilly pic.twitter.com/nUXfoHjgZ6
— Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) February 18, 2020
“I love being around people so it’s easy for me to do that. It’s great,” Perez said.
Perez’s installation seals a story about homecoming and that is highly unusual for a priest educated here in Philadelphia to return as archbishop.
The mass was rich with symbolism of Perez’s Latino heritage.
Three separate choirs crammed for the occasion, with just three weeks of time to get it right.
As the 500-clergy strong procession led into the cathedral, a band enthusiastically played hymns.
During the homily, Perez talked about hope. Even with the deep wounds and scars of the church, the new archbishop apologized for the sins of the church and hoped that it would all be made right.
“Despite all our own personal ups and downs in the world, and yes, in the church, the sad betrayal of some of our own who have deeply hurt those who they were called to serve for which they and I are very so deeply sorry, and we continue to work with hope that we will make it right,” Perez said.
Perez directed part of his words to his predecessor, Archbishop Charles Chaput.
“He was steadfast. He made decisions sometimes a father has to make, decisions that at times brought him great suffering and criticism,” Perez said. “He’s a man of great, great faith, incredible faith. He’s a man who proclaims the truth of the gospel and of our faith with courage and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia owes this man an incredible debt of gratitude.”
Chaput spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News.
“I’m very, very happy,” Chaput said. “We have a very wonderful new archbishop. I’m also very happy of, after 32 years as a bishop, I’ll have a chance to take time to start studying again, relax and begin a new phase of my life.”
Chaput is glad for a much-needed break.
“It’s a big weight lifted off my shoulders. It makes me very happy to go home tonight and not have to make decisions tomorrow morning,” he said.
More than 50 bishops from all over participated in the liturgy.
“I think our leadership brings its own qualities to the times, so maybe this is the time we need the personality and the style, enthusiasm of Archbishop Perez,” Bishop Edward Malesic, who leads the Greensburg, Pennsylvania diocese, said.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, a retired Philadelphia archbishop, noted the important moment for the local church.
“It’s wonderful how the life of the church goes on, and the people gather for the new bishop, and a day of hope and joy,” Rigali said.
After the two-hour mass ended, many were looking forward to this new chapter in Philadelphia Roman Catholic history.
“We can rise from all the challenges we’ve been facing to continue to do good work,” said Father Tom Whittingham, with St. Catherine of Drexel in Chester.
At 58 years old, Perez is the youngest sitting archbishop in the country.
CBS3’s Joe Holden and Greg Argos contributed to this report.