SANTO DOMINGO – The appointment on Monday of Francisco Ozoria Acosta as Santo Domingo’s new archbishop brings to a close the almost four decades of the episcopate of Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, a period marked by substantial controversy.
Pope Francis on Monday named Ozoria Acosta, 64, to replace Lopez, the Vatican said.
The pontiff had accepted Lopez’s resignation as archbishop in accord with Article 401/1 of the canonical code, which stipulates that nobody may serve as archbishop after age 75.
Ozoria Acosta will continue to head the eastern San Pedro de Macoris diocese until he takes over the archbishop’s duties in the capital, a transition scheduled for Sept. 4.
In his presentation on Monday in Santo Domingo, the new archbishop expressed surprise at his selection and said that he will endeavor to provide continuity for the Church’s local mission.
The “most surprised person is me,” he said, going on to thank the pope for his “undeserved appointment.”
He also said that his aim is to continue the mission of the Catholic Church in the Dominican Republic and “look after the lambs, teach and sanctify.”
He went on to note that he was ordained a priest by Lopez, to whom he is bound by “deep links.”
Lopez, 79, will continue as cardinal, a post to which he was named in 1991, after the death of Antonio Beras Rojas, the first Dominican cardinal.
As cardinal, Lopez – long one of the country’s most influential figures – will retain his prominent pulpit and will continue to impress his personal stamp on local affairs, an approach that has been marked by controversy and criticism on issues such as homosexuality, abortion, pedophilia within the priesthood, corruption and national policy, among others.
Deemed daring and courageous by some and an opportunist by others, the cardinal has always managed to hold the attention of his countrymen due to his confrontations both inside and outside the Church.
Lopez is known for saying that legitimizing gay marriage is “something savage,” perverse and unnatural.
His latest controversy came in December 2015 and concerned U.S. Ambassador James Brewster, who is gay, when he said he should “go back to his embassy and, as the wife he is of a man (his husband, Bob Satawake), concern himself with the affairs of the home. That is what he should do.”