For Utah’s Catholic community, the long wait is over. On Tuesday, Pope Francis named 63-year-old Bishop Oscar Azarcon Solis as the bishop at the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. The announcement ended the city’s longest period without a bishop.
“I was working very hard as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the past 13 years,” Solis said at a press conference in Salt Lake City. “And lo and behold, I received a very surprising and shocking phone call, informing me that Pope Francis was asking me to become the 10th Bishop of Salt Lake City. And of course, it was such a curve ball coming from nowhere. I said, ‘Salt Lake City, Your Excellency, am I in trouble?’”
Solis is the first Filipino-American bishop ordained in the United States. His official installation is set for March 7.
“I felt encouraged in the sense that after 20 months when the Salt Lake Diocese was vacante, the church remained strong and alive,” he said. “A beautiful manifestation that God’s abiding presence is with all of you and with all of us. That is very encouraging for me.”
The diocese of Salt Lake City includes the entire state of Utah, serving over 300,000 Catholics in the state, according to the diocese website.
“I come here with an open mind in order to absorb as best as I could and as much as I could the important things that have to be done, to be carried out in order to build a community of love and peace in the state of Utah,” Solis said.