Wednesday, July 05, 2017

For the New Cathedral, Un Nuevo Pastor – At Long Last, Zarama Nabs Raleigh's Big Chair

(Updated 9.30am with presser video, etc.)

For all the twists and turns (and loops) of an eventful vacancy in Eastern North Carolina's 59-county fold, the nod still falls to the long-tipped frontrunner: at Roman Noon on this 5th of July, the Pope tapped Luis Rafael Zarama, the 58 year-old auxiliary of Atlanta, as sixth bishop of Raleigh – its more than 500,000 Catholics doubled in size over the last decade, a majority of them Hispanic.

The move completes a rare "trade" of hats rolled out over the last several weeks, as the latter's own Fr Ned Shlesinger was snapped up by Archbishop Wilton Gregory as a second auxiliary for the million-member Atlanta church. And as those who listened closely at the May presser announcing that move might recall the veiled yet conspicuous Wilt-line that "Raleigh may talk to me again – soon"... well, "soon" has come to pass (and on the foreseen timetable, to boot).

With his move to the land of the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, the Colombian-born pick inherits the new crown jewel of the church's landmark emergence in the "New South": the 2,000-seat, $41 million Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus (below), which will be dedicated three weeks from today in fittingly massive form by the project's visionary, Bishop Michael Burbidge, who was transferred to Arlington last October.

Zarama will be installed in the new space on Tuesday, 29 August. Gratefully, the cathedral's cost isn't among the challenges ahead – thanks to a redo of the initial plans that removed several of the proposed structure's pricier elements, in a rarity for an effort of this magnitude, its construction and outfitting is said to be practically paid off.

On another historic front, the choice marks a watershed – recruited by Atlanta from his homeland before his 1993 ordination, Zarama becomes the first Latino to helm a Southern diocese outside of Florida. As for what awaits, meanwhile, given reports of some tensions between Colombians and Mexicans in the Raleigh trenches, that situation – among others – just got rather more interesting.

Himself a sweetheart par excellence, even for today's usual introductory presser, Zarama's already had his maiden turn before his new charge – the act indeed seen as an "audition" at the time, the eventual appointee was brought in to celebrate this year's Chrism Mass in Raleigh due to the vacancy, nabbing high marks across the board with this homily, beginning with his admission that "my legs are shaking":

The local intro set for 10am ET today, here's the Chancery livefeed:

Developing – again, lest anybody forgot, there's no shortage of "more to come" going around.