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First Latino President to lead US Catholic bishops

by Margaret Stewart - Managing Editor
Tue, Nov 19th 2019 09:00 pm
Mexican immigrant, Archbishop José Gomez commands a speech and communion in a Los Angeles community (above). Gomez has been elected as the newest United States Conference of Catholic Bishops President, the first Latino bishop to do so.
Mexican immigrant, Archbishop José Gomez commands a speech and communion in a Los Angeles community (above). Gomez has been elected as the newest United States Conference of Catholic Bishops President, the first Latino bishop to do so.

The bishops of the U.S. Catholic church made a symbolic choice for its next president at a recent conference.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles was elected into office on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The Mexican immigrant is “the first Latino bishop to become president of the American bishops’ conference,” according to The Washington Post.

Gomez’s election comes at a rather tumultuous time as there has been a shift between the Latinx community and the Catholic church.

“Latinos in the U.S. are no longer majority-Catholic, according to a Pew Research Center survey released last month,” LA Times reporter Sarah Parvini wrote. “Some 47% describe themselves as Catholic, the survey showed, down from 57% a decade ago. At the same time, 23% of Latinos say they are religiously unaffiliated, up from 15% in 2009.”

Despite his prestigious role, Gomez’s power within individual dioceses nationwide is limited. Regardless, the bishops also use their time at the conference to discuss national topics of concern such as the political climate and the lack of migrants being allowed into the U.S. along the Southern border.

With the new archbishop being of Mexican heritage and an immigrant within a rather disparaging secular political climate, the leader is not pulling any punches.

In his first press conference, Gomez prioritized addressing the Supreme Court case regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program where five of the nine judges are Catholic. The case was happening simultaneously to Gomez’ election, according to The Post.

“We are praying for the good result of the Supreme Court decision, in favor of the possibility of the Dreamers to be in the United States, obviously in a legal way,” Gomez said. 

According to The LA Times, American bishops have opposed the “enforcement only” policies. Historically, the bishops are standing behind “comprehensive immigration reform,” as they believe immigration isn’t a matter for the political sphere rather it is a matter of humanitarian concern instead.

Though Gomez may currently be the highest ranking Catholic official in the U.S., many other bishops including Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, have followed suit by voicing their opinions on the atrocities that have happened this last year.

The Latino bishop of El Paso spoke out on Oct. 13 at an Indigionous People’s Day vigil in regard to the prior mass shootings and border situation of this past year in particular, according to AP.

“Sin unites people around fear and hate,” Seitz said. “Our highest elected officials have used the word ‘invasion’ and ‘killer’ over 500 times to refer to migrants, treated migrant children as pawns on a crass political chessboard, insinuated that judges and legislators of color are un-American and have made wall-building a core political project.”

It is perhaps why electing Gomez as its president was such a power move. San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller is also a high ranking Mexican American Catholic leader is in full support of Gomez’ election and hopes it will allow for the welcoming of more Latinos to the church.

“It will be very meaningful,” García-Siller said to The Post. “He’s a symbol of opening roads for leadership for more Latino Catholics.”

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