Pope Francis Appoints America’s Youngest Bishop

Pope Francis has appointed two new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Santísima Concepción in Chile, one of whom is the youngest bishop in the Americas and the third youngest in the world.

The p. Bernardo Andres Alvarez Tapia, rector of the Metropolitan Seminary of the Santísima Concepción, is just over 41 years old. He will turn 42 on August 4.

The next youngest bishop in the Americas is Bishop Andriy Rabiy, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archeparchy of the Ukrainians in Philadelphia (United States), who is 46 years old.

The other two bishops younger than Bishop Álvarez, in the world, are the Romanian Cristian Dumitru Crisan and the Ukrainian Stepan Sus, both 40 years old.

In his greeting to the Archdiocese of Concepción, Bishop Álvarez affirms that “with a spirit of faith and humility I have allowed the invitation that the Lord has extended to me through the pastors of the Church to resound in me.”

“Certainly, I recognize the greatness of the call, even more so in the times that we have to live as Church and society, in the face of my poverty and fragility, however, after a time of prayer and discernment I have recognized the voice of the Lord that encouraged, once again entering the boat of my life”, he adds.

Monsignor Álvarez thanked Pope Francis, the Apostolic Nuncio in Chile and the Archbishop of Concepción, Monsignor Fernando Chomali, “for this call to share the shepherding they carry out in the name of the Lord”; also to his “family, for their fidelity and affection, they have always been a school of faith and love in which I can constantly renew my own dedication with total freedom” and to the “communities that have seen me grow”.

“May God bless you and the Blessed Immaculate Virgin protect you. In the Lord, Fr. Bernardo”, he concludes.

Bernardo Andrés Álvarez Tapia was born on August 4, 1980 in Talcahuano. He studied Engineering for a few years and then entered the Concepción Metropolitan Seminary in 2002, where he studied Philosophy and Theology.

He was ordained a priest on November 21, 2009.

He has held, among others, the following positions: parochial vicar, administrator, parish priest and rector of the Parish and Sanctuary of San Sebastián de Yumbel. In 2015, he also took over the neighboring parish of Santa Filomena de Cabrero. In the years 2014 to 2017 he was Dean of the Rural Deanship.

Since 2014 he has participated in the National Commission for Sanctuaries and Popular Piety.

In 2019 he was sent to study Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago; and since 2020 he is rector of the Metropolitan Seminary of Concepción.

The Holy Father also appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Concepción the Fr Oscar Walter Garcia Barreto.

In his greeting, the bishop-elect thanked “God for the gift of life, the vocation to the priestly ministry and now for this immense gift, which – without deserving it on my part – through his Church calls me to episcopal service.” .

After thanking Pope Francis, the Nuncio in Chile and the Archbishop of Concepción for his appointment, Msgr. García said he was “aware of the mission I assume and of my unworthiness, something I never thought of, nor did I look for it, only always ready to serve where the Lord would have it there.”

“I trust in the action of God and that his work will be carried out in this poor servant, who wishes to always be a shepherd with the smell of sheep, very close to the people of God, showing a living Christ, who manifests his mercy and his love for every human being,” he assured.

Óscar Walter García Barreto was born on August 8, 1969 in the city of Tala, department of Canelones (Uruguay). He is 52 years old.

In January 1992, he entered the Congregation of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence, where he made his first religious profession on February 2, 1994.

In 1995, he worked in the “Ciudad del Niño, Ricardo Espinoza” home for minors in the Hualpén commune, in Chile.

After continuing his studies in Philosophy and Theology in Chile and Argentina, he was ordained a priest on August 14, 1999.

In 2008 he was appointed pastor of the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Hualpén, in the Archdiocese of the Santísima Concepción.

In 2015 he was appointed pastor of the parish of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in the commune of Cañete and also collaborated in the pastoral care of the San José Institute.

Since January 2022 he has been pastor of the San José parish and Episcopal Vicar of the Arauco area.

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