After more than a year and a half wait, Utah has a new Catholic Bishop. Pope Francis has named Oscar Azarcon Solis as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
A native of the Philippines, Bishop Solis will be the first Filipino bishop to serve in the U.S. He comes to Salt Lake from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where he was serving as an auxiliary bishop.
During a press conference Tuesday he said the call from the Vatican took him by surprise. His initial response was, "Salt Lake City...am I in trouble?"
Solis admitted this is all very new to him. He said he’s only visited Utah once before, and that he’s never had any direct relationships with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The only encounter with them are when I met those missionaries who are roaming around. Wonderful men and women," said Solis.
He said he plans to continue the tradition of working closely with LDS leadership in his new role.
Solis also touched on a number of controversial topics during a media Q&A. In response to a question regarding the ordination of women, he says he supports the view of Pope Francis but expressed an open mind.
“We are open to change," Solis said. "If God wills it so, let it be.”
Solis also stressed a desire to reach out to Utah’s immigrant population.
“I think that the church position on immigration is very clear. We welcome the strangers in our midst," said Solis.
The multilingual Bishop-elect shared a portion of his remarks in Spanish, addressing more than half of the 300,000 Catholics in Utah who are Hispanic.
The official installation of Solis as Bishop will take place on Tuesday, March 7th in the Cathedral of the Madeleine.