LOS ANGELES — Archbishop Jose Gomez's appointment Tuesday to head the Archdiocese of Los Angeles underscores the growing importance of Hispanics in the American church and promises to give the nation's largest Roman Catholic diocese an even stronger voice in the immigration debate.
It was also evidence that Pope Benedict XVI wants a strong defender of orthodoxy at the helm in Los Angeles, which is nearly three-quarters Hispanic. Gomez, 58, was ordained as a priest of Opus Dei, the conservative movement favored by the Vatican.
The Mexican-born Gomez was named coadjutor for Los Angeles, which means he will take over the archdiocese when the archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, retires Feb. 27, his 75th birthday.
Gomez, who leads the Archdiocese of San Antonio, appeared at the Los Angeles cathedral and said that the first four bishops of the Los Angeles territory were Hispanic and that his appointment is a return to the church's roots.
The appointment of Gomez puts him in line to become the highest-ranking Hispanic in the American Catholic hierarchy and the first Hispanic cardinal in the United States.