For 1st time, Pope names Fil-Am to head US diocese

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time, a Filipino-American will head a diocese in the United States after Pope Francis named Bishop Oscar Solis, a 63-year-old native of Nueva Ecija, as bishop of Salt Lake City in Utah.

"He will now be the first Filipino-American bishop to lead a diocese in the US," the Diocese of Salt Lake City announced on Tuesday, January 10.

In a statement, the Diocese of Salt Lake City said Solis will become their 10th bishop, and is set to be installed at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on March 7. 

After his appointment was announced, Solis held a news conference where he stressed the need to invite the youth back to the Catholic Church.

Solis said: "They always say that the youth is the future of our nation, of our Church. That is a wrong premise. The youth is our Church. The youth is our Church now, and not in the future."

On immigrants to the US, Solis said, "The diversity of the United States reflects the kind of Church we have in America."  

"We are a diverse people of cultures, of faith, of status of life, and everything. But there is only one mission that we have. The common mission as a church and as a nation – to live as a country, one country. In the midst of diversity, we want to have unity," the bishop added.

1st Fil-Am bishop ordained in US

Solis has been auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since February 10, 2004.

"He was the first Filipino-American bishop ordained in the United States," the Diocese of Salt Lake City said. 

"The bishop will bring his rich and diverse pastoral experience to his ministry in Utah," the diocese added.

Solis was born in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, on October 13, 1953. 

He later studied at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City and also the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a separate statement.

Ordained to the priesthood on April 28, 1979, he once served in the Archdiocese of Manila and the Diocese of Cabanatuan. 

He has ministered to Catholics in the US as early as 1984, his first assignment being in Union City, New Jersey, as associate pastor until 1988.

Coming from a country where 8 out of 10 people belong to the Catholic Church, Solis is set to lead a diocese made up of 295,000 Catholics – around 10% of a total population of 2.94 million. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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