Pope Francis appoints Utah bishop to lead Archdiocese of Santa Fe

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – A popular religious leader is opening up about leaving the state and taking on a new role.

Salt Lake City Diocese Bishop John C. Wester has accepted the invitation to become the twelfth archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Wester admits to feeling caught off guard when a papal representative called with the big news.

“He said, ‘Our Holy Father Pope Francis has appointed you archbishop of Santa Fe,’ and then once I picked myself up off the floor, I said, ‘Are you still there?'” Wester recalled.

Laughing with news media at his Salt Lake City diocese, Wester also recalled his first impulse reaction during that conversation.

“I explained to him I thought I was very happy where I am, and that didn’t seem to be why he was calling — about my happiness,” he chuckled.

Wester says it is a calling from God and says he can not deny his newly bestowed responsibility.

Wester, during Tuesday’s press conference, reiterated his firm commitment to social justice — a defining characteristic and focus of his leadership in the Beehive State.

“It’s clear that we live in a pluralistic society, where people have different thoughts, different views, different beliefs, so the challenge for us, I think, is to live together in harmony and respect,” Wester explained.

The well-loved leader says he has grown to admire Utah Catholics’ unique enthusiasm for the religion as well as the deep conviction he has seen in those of other faiths.

“I’ve made very close friends, certainly with the leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as other religious leaders…” he told reporters. “I am certainly humbled by our Holy Father’s appointment, but I do want to say it’ll be very difficult for me to leave this beautiful place and this wonderful state,” Wester said.

Wester plans on taking over in Santa Fe on June 4th of this year. Until then, he will continue serving in Salt Lake and says he wants everyone to know how much he appreciates the love and support.

After Wester’s official installation, a congregation of bishops will review candidates to replace him. Once they have narrowed it down to three people, Pope Francis will make the final selection.

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