PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The next Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia made his first public appearance on Friday morning since the announcement from The Vatican.
Nelson J. Perez greeted well-wishers and students with warm smiles and waves at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Northern Liberties.
Perez was accompanied by Archbishop Charles Chaput.
Students from neighboring Saint Peter the Apostle were proud to be part of this special meeting.
"That was a very exciting moment," exclaimed 7th grader Nadia Russell.
Seventh grader Monica Peterson added, "I thought it was really an honor for him to be here with us."
Fourth grade teacher Nicole Fantom explained, "It's really important for them to see somebody in Philadelphia succeed just as he has."
The pair first knelt silently, side-by-side in prayer, before Perez and Chaput, in turn, spoke to the gathered students, taking time to meet some and chat.
Later, Perez explained to us, he has been here many times before. For him, and for many, this is a special place of prayer.
"I would sit in the back, and after Confession go to Mass, pray before the Saint. It was always for me-in the middle of Philadelphia city, this respite place, a place of peace, and a place of prayer," said Perez.
This was not just a welcome, but a welcome back for a man who spent many years working in Philadelphia communities.
Sister Catherine Clark IHM, remembers him from Saint William's in Northeast Philadelphia.
"I am not the least bit surprised," Clark shared.
She remembered, "He came as a brand new pastor to Saint William's, and he was wonderful."
Before the men left, the children gave them a blessing, and Chaput and Perez blessed them in return.
We asked Perez about the message he wanted to convey to the children on Friday.
Perez replied, "God has placed really the future- our future- in their hands- it's in their hands. It's no longer in a sense in ours, it's in theirs, and that God loves them and needs them, and needs them to continue to love the world."
First appearance for next Archbishop of Archdiocese of Philadelphia
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