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Georgia Bishop Chosen To Lead In Eastern North Carolina

 Luis Rafael Zarama
Courtesy of Diocese of Raleigh

Updated at 12:45 p.m., July 7, 2017

An auxiliary bishop in Georgia has been chosen to lead Roman Catholics in eastern North Carolina. Pope Francis has selected Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama of Atlanta to take over as the new bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh.

"The Holy Father has chosen me to come here," Zarama said at a news conference Wednesday. "I didn't choose that. Why that happened, I don't have any idea. But I'm so grateful to God because of this opportunity."

Zarama, 58,  was born and educated in Colombia and became a U.S. citizen on July 4, 2000.

Once he is installed at the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral on Aug. 29, he'll become the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh.

"The people asked me many times, how many languages do you speak? And I say "One and half. Spanish and half English," he said. "I learned to speak English when I was thirty-something years old. That is one of my big limitations, but I will try to do my best with love."

The vacancy in Raleigh was created last year when Pope Francis appointed Bishop Michael Burbidge as the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

Burbidge had led the Raleigh Diocese since 2006.

Zarama had been an auxiliary bishop in Atlanta since 2009. He has served in Atlanta since he was ordained in 1993.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta praised Zarama's selection for the Raleigh position.

The diocese of Raleigh includes 54 counties in eastern North Carolina. It has been growing rapidly and includes a large Hispanic population.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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