By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 4, 2008
Msgr. Luis R. Zarama has been appointed by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory to be judicial vicar for the Atlanta Archdiocese. He will keep his current position as a vicar general of the archdiocese.
Father William King, a canon lawyer from the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., has returned to his home diocese after leading the church’s court system since early 2006.
Msgr. Zarama said he wants to continue the changes that began under Father King. The Metropolitan Tribunal focused on clearing up long delayed marriage annulment cases, reorganizing the staff and reaching out to parishes to promote the tribunal’s services. In 2007, more than 700 marriage cases were resolved.
Msgr. Zarama said the tribunal’s mission is to serve Catholics and help them feel comfortable if they seek an annulment.
“It’s not a miracle process. But we do it with kindness, compassion and love,” he said.
Church law requires the judicial vicar to be a priest, at least 30 years old, licensed in canon law and of “unimpaired reputation.” The canon also states that each bishop must appoint a judicial vicar “distinct from the vicar general unless the small size of the diocese or the small number of cases suggests otherwise.”
Msgr. Zarama, 49, will continue to serve as one of two vicars general in the Atlanta Archdiocese. The Colombian-born priest received a degree in canon law from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá.
Ordained in December 1993, Msgr. Zarama was pastor of St. Mark Church in Clarkesville and St. Helena Church in Clayton for a decade before he was asked to serve as a vicar general to Archbishop Gregory in 2006. He has also served in the tribunal as a defender of the bond and as an assistant vocations director of the archdiocese. Bilingual and bicultural, he became an American citizen in 2000.
He said the church law is written because each position demands a person’s full-time attention. However, the archbishop is aware of the judicial vicar’s requirements and determined that he could serve both as the head of the tribunal and in his current position, Msgr. Zarama said. The appointment was announced Aug. 29.
Father King said his successor exemplifies a love of serving the people of the church.
“Msgr. Zarama brings with him a love for the church and a focused sense of service to God’s people,” said Father King in an e-mail. “In working with him as one of the vicars of the archbishop, I appreciated his constant desire to act for the good of God’s people.”
He said it is important tribunal staff remain engaged with people by making visits to parishes around the archdiocese. Many Catholics need to be educated about its function, said Father King.
He said another strength Msgr. Zarama brings is his studies outside the United States. It means he thinks about canon law differently than from an American understanding, said Father King.