CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Cleveland diocese's first-ever Latino bishop was named Tuesday.
Cleveland 19 asked Bishop Nelson Perez if his Cuban heritage played a role in his appointment to the position.
"I would assume," Perez said.
The assumption seems a safe one, since Cleveland's Latino Catholic population is growing.
According to a report from Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Cleveland's Catholic Latino population grew from 78,527 in the year 2000 to 118,136 in 2014. An increase was experienced in each of the northeast Ohio counties in the diocese.
Cleveland 19 compared that to the overall population of Catholics in the Cleveland diocese. The number declined by more than 100,000 over the same time period. Currently there are 677,219 Catholics in the diocese, or about 24 percent of the overall population.
Another number on the decline is the number of priests. According to data from the diocese as well as another CARA report, the Cleveland diocese had 433 priests in 2005, and in 2017 that number had dropped to 257.
"Certainly that is a challenge and I always tell families, you know, you've got to give priests to the church -- you can't expect me to give them," joked Perez.
He went on to say he thinks Catholic families have to support and pray with the church.
"It's a responsibility, not just as myself as a bishop or a priest, but of the whole Catholic family and the whole Catholic community. I also believe that the priest has a role in the church, but it is not the only role and that the baptized the lay people of the church have an incredible role, and I think in the last -- really since the second Vatican council in the late 60s the laity have begun to take their place in the church in leadership roles, ministerial roles and pastoral roles," he said. "The church is not a church of priests and nuns. We have our roles but it's not the only role."
Cleveland 19 also asked Perez about Cleveland's history of controversial church closings.
"Well, to be honest I don't know that landscape here, I've only been here 12 hours so I don't know -- I know that there have been closures here in the past, as there have been all over the place as populations shift and the church tries to meet people where they are," he said. "That's always a very difficult process a very difficult process."
Cleveland 19 asked Perez to address those who may be concerned about a perceived decline of the church.
"Be joyful," he said. "Be joyful and be hopeful, be joyful. That's all I can say, that lies at the heart of Christianity, be joyful. Everything will be where God wants it to be and God will give us the joy and the peace to embrace that. He always has."