JACKSON – The Rev. Joseph Kopacz has been appointed bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, which includes Northeast Mississippi, to succeed Bishop Joseph Latino who reached the age of retirement.
The appointment by Pope Francis was announced Wednesday and was released by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganr, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.
Kopacz, 63, will be ordained and installed on Feb. 6 at noon in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson.
Kopacz is a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., and was ordained in 1977. He has served the Scranton diocese in many capacities, including as a pastor, formation director, vicar for priests, vicar general and coordinator for Hispanic Ministry.
Father Lincoln Dall, pastor of St. James Catholic Church in Tupelo, said Kopacz’s experience resonated with him.
“As far as Northeast Mississippi goes, the St. James parish probably has the strongest Hispanic ministry in the diocese, so I’m very excited to share that vision with him,” Dall said. “He seems very humble and down to earth.”
Latino, 75, was named bishop in 2003 after the resignation of Bishop William R. Houck, who had led the Catholic Diocese of Jackson since 1977 and had reached the age limit of 75 for bishops in the Catholic Church.
Kopacz will inherit a diocese that is the largest, by land area, east of the Mississippi River, but one of the smallest in terms of adherents, with 48,000 Catholics. It covers the state’s 65 northernmost counties.
The Diocese of Biloxi covers 17 southern Mississippi counties, from the coast north through Laurel. Though smaller in land area, it has 70,000 Catholics.
Kopacz is a native of Dunmore, Pa. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Scranton and his master’s degree in Theology from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y. He also earned a master’s degree and doctorate from Marywood University.
“This is indeed a joyful day for the Diocese of Jackson. We are very honored that our Holy Father has appointed such a fine priest to serve as our new diocesan bishop,” Latino said.
Daily Journal reporter Riley Manning contributed to this story.