.- Pope Benedict XVI has named Monsignor Luis Rafael Zarama, 50, as the auxiliary bishop of Atlanta.
The announcement was made this morning by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta who expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father for responding to his petition for assistance in serving the rapidly expanding archdiocese.
Noting the continued growth of the Catholic population in Atlanta, he observed, "This blessing of an expanding population also means that there are many more occasions and situations that require the presence of a bishop."
"I know that Bishop-elect Zarama will share with me the Episcopal service of all of our people. He has already proven himself a generous colleague and a highly-respected member of the priests of this local Church," the archbishop said.
Zarama also expressed his excitement to the Holy Father for his appointment, as well as to Archbishop Gregory for his continued guidance and support. He said he sees the assignment as a "new opportunity to serve the people of God" and looks forward to the challenge of aiding the archbishop and serving the needs of the people.
The bishop-elect said he is eager to show God’s love to the people of Atlanta. "It is the hunger and the thirst of the people to know the truth about our faith, and the most important thing is how we can reach them with the message of the Gospel, that is, the message of love," he said.
Archbishop Gregory described Zarama as "beloved by both the Spanish-speaking community and the English-speaking community," observing that this knowledge of both languages and cultures will be a great tool by which the bishop-elect can serve the people of the archdiocese.
Gregory also mentioned that after working as a parish priest in Atlanta for a number of years, Zarama is already familiar with the archdiocese, and brings with him a love for Atlanta as he enters his new position. "He has grown to know the archdiocese in a broad perspective," the archbishop said.
Bishop-elect Zarama, a native of Colombia, was ordained a priest in Atlanta in 1993 and became an American citizen in 2000. He has been the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Atlanta since 2006, a role which he will continue after being ordained bishop. He was named a chaplain of His Holiness and received the title "monsignor" in 2007.
The Episcopal Ordination of Bishop-Elect Luis R. Zarama will take place on September 29 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta contains close to 800,000 Catholics, about 11% of the six million people living in the metro area. The Archdiocese includes 95 parishes and missions, as well as 279 priests.