Pope announces new leader for the Diocese of Raleigh

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Pope Francis has appointed a new bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh.

The announcement was made around 6 a.m. EST in Rome that the Pope has chosen Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, to serve as the 6th bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh.

His installation will occur at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral on August 29.

At a press conference Wednesday, Bishop Zarama expressed gratitude for the more than two decades he served in Atlanta and the new opportunity he's been given.

"The Holy Father has choose me to come here," he said. "I didn't choose that."

Zarama, born in Pasto, Colombia, became a U.S. citizen on July 4th, 2000. He talked about his limitations with speaking English, joking he speaks one and a half languages.
"Spanish and half English," he said with a smile.

Zarama said he has experience leading a growing diocese and called the growth in Raleigh, a beautiful challenge.

"I saw the challenges of serving the people and the most beautiful thing to see is how the people are hungry for Beloved and for the truth," he said. "And that is the mission we have in front of us, how we can respond to them and helping them to know Jesus and most importantly helping them know how much Jesus loved them.

Zarama took a tour of the new cathedral during a visit to Raleigh in April as it was under construction.

"The building itself helps us to pray," he said. "Everything that is in the building is with a purpose to help us to raise our souls to praise God."

His appointment comes less than a year after Pope Francis appointed Bishop Michael Burbidge to serve as the Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, after leading the Raleigh Diocese since 2006.

RELATED: Raleigh's Bishop Burbidge transferred to Diocese of Arlington

Burbidge responded to the news with the following statement:

I give thanks to God for the appointment of Bishop Luis Zarama as the Sixth Bishop of Raleigh. I am proud to call him a brother bishop and good friend. Bishop Zarama is a holy, faithful and joyful bishop known and respected for his pastoral skills, administrative abilities, zeal and kindness. 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. I promised Bishop Zarama that he and the Diocese of Raleigh will remain in my daily prayers at this joyful and historic moment and always.

Zarama was ordained to the Roman Catholic Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1993.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI named the 58-year-old as Titular Bishop of Bararus and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He was ordained to the Episcopacy later that year.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory (Archbishop of Atlanta) issued the following statement:

Pope Francis in today's appointment has honored the Archdiocese of Atlanta with the gift of Bishop Luis R. Zarama to become the new Bishop of Raleigh. How fortunate that 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.
I join Bishop-Elect Shlesinger and all of the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Archdiocese of Atlanta in assuring Bishop Zarama of our prayers and warmest best wishes as he begins this new service to Christ's Church. While we will have time to celebrate his appointment to the Diocese of Raleigh before he takes leave for his August 29th Installation, we promise him our affectionate best wishes and congratulations on this happy moment for him and for all of God's People in the Diocese of Raleigh.
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