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Pope Francis Names Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop To Head Diocese Of Raleigh

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Pope Francis Names Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop To Head Diocese Of Raleigh

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis
has named Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama to head the Diocese of
Raleigh, North Carolina.

He succeeds Bishop Michael F. Burbidge,
who last October was named to head the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, where he
was installed Dec. 6.

Bishop Zarama, 58, has been an
Atlanta auxiliary bishop since 2009. A native of Colombia, he was ordained a
priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1993.

The appointment was announced in
Washington July 5 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the
United States.

Bishop Zarama will be installed as
Raleigh’s sixth bishop Aug. 29 at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral.

“I am here to serve and love everybody and to help them understand we are a family,” the bishop said at a July 5 news conference at Raleigh diocesan headquarters. He admitted to being “very nervous” about his new job, adding that how Pope Francis chose him for the post, “I have no idea.”

He said he is asked often how
many languages he speaks and he joked that he speaks “one and a half —
Spanish and half English.”

His only “agenda right now,” he told reporters, is “to know the diocese, to know the priests, to know the people and the challenges. How will we serve them?”

“The South is a beautiful place to be and the most beautiful thing to see is how the people are hungry for the truth and that is the mission we have in front of us,” BishopvZarama said. “How we can respond and help them to know Jesus and know how much Jesus loves them.”

Asked about the immigration
issue, the bishop urged everyone “to remember the story of the history of
this country, how this country was formed. Sometimes we forget that we are
coming from families who came from Ireland, from Africa, from Italy, from Germany.”

Immigrants came to this country because
“they wanted it and needed it,” he said, and the United States “opened
for them an opportunity.” Today’s immigrants face those same struggles and they need the same opportunities previous generations of immigrants found, he continued, and yet new immigrants “feel that they are not

If “we don’t remember our
past, it is hard to understand what it is going on with people from different
countries” wanting that opportunity, Bishop Zarama said, so the question is
“how we can approach them and serve them and help them to find that at
least in the church they have a place where they can be and feel at home.”

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D.
Gregory said in a statement that Pope Francis “has honored the Archdiocese
of Atlanta with the gift of Bishop Luis R. Zarama to become the new bishop of
Raleigh,” “How fortunate that the local church is to receive such a
devoted and generous servant minister.”

“The Holy Father has chosen
well even though his decision takes a deeply beloved brother and friend from
our midst,” he added.

Archbishop Gregory said he
joined with Bishop-designate Bernard E. Shlesinger, named an auxiliary bishop
for Atlanta in May, and all the clergy, religious and laypeople of the
archdiocese “in assuring Bishop Zarama of our prayers and warmest best
wishes.” Bishop-designate Shlesinger is a Raleigh diocesan priest.

“I am proud to call him a
brother bishop and good friend,” Bishop Burbidge said of Bishop Zarama,
whom he described as “a holy, faithful and joyful bishop.”

Bishop Zarama is “known and
respected for his pastoral skills, administrative abilities, zeal and
kindness,” Bishop Burbidge said. “I have assured Bishop Zarama that
he will be truly blessed with the support of such good priests, consecrated
religious, deacons, seminarians, colleagues and lay faithful in the Diocese of Raleigh.”

Luis Rafael Zarama was born in
Pasto, Colombia, Nov. 28, 1958. He attended the Conciliar Seminary in Pasto,
where he graduated from high school. He attended Marian University, also in
Pasto, earning a degree in philosophy and theology. He studied at the
Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, Colombia, where he earned a degree
in canon law. He was a philosophy and theology professor at the Carmelites
School, the Learning School and the Colombia Military School for 11 years.

He was a priest of the
Archdiocese of Atlanta Nov. 27, 1993. Then-Father Zarama’s first assignment was as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Atlanta. He also
was a member of the Vocations Committee.

He was the first Hispanic priest
in the archdiocese to be named pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church in
Clarksville, Georgia, and St. Helena Mission in Clayton, Georgia.

He became an American citizen
July 4, 2000. He was named vicar general of the archdiocese in April 2006. A
year later Pope Benedict XVI named him a monsignor.

In 2008 he was appointed to
serve as the judicial vicar for the Atlanta Archdiocese’s Metropolitan
Tribunal. In July 2009, Pope Benedict named him an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta. His episcopal ordination was Sept. 29, 2009.

The Diocese of Raleigh covers
32,000 square miles. Out of a total population of over 4.8 million, there are
just over 231,000 Catholics.


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