PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Archbishop Nelson Perez spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News about the racial tensions in Philadelphia and much more. This week marks Perez’s fifth month as leader of Philadelphia’s 1.4 million Catholics.
Perez is the first Hispanic American bishop of the archdiocese. In his short time back home, he’s seen a global pandemic, government-imposed shutdowns, economic meltdowns, protests and civil unrest.
Ultimately, he says he’s a man of hope.
“People need to talk to each other, right? And recognize the fact in terms of combatting the sin of racism, the evil of racism, we’ve had success and progress, we’re not done yet,” Perez said.
What does Perez make of the Black Lives Matter movement?
“Well, obviously the African American/Black community feels deeply hurt that sometimes, they feel that their lives don’t matter,” Perez said. “And at times, it certainly appears that way so I think they have an incredible point that their lives matter, and we need to pay particular attention to what’s gone on in this country the past several years.”
Earlier this week, Perez met with members of the Black clergy. He described it as a “very honest and frank discussion on the issue of race relations and a need for healing.”
Perez says that starts with leadership, including the mayor, elected and appointed officials and the commissioner of police.
“To continue to do the right thing,” Perez said. “I think the mayor and commissioner in extraordinary circumstances confronted these past … the pandemic, the civil unrest, did the best they could do, they were out there, present, we saw them. Anybody in leadership is going to get criticized, that’s part of being a leader, but I have to say they were very present to the city of Philadelphia, we all saw that from watching the news.”
Perez says he looks forward to engaging with the mayor, police commissioner and other city officials.