Today, on Tuesday morning, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles was elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.
In a landmark vote, the American bishops elected Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Fall Assembly in Baltimore, today, Nov. 12, making him the first Latino to hold the highest leadership position in the American Catholic Church. Also, the bishops of the US have elected Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit as vice president of the conference.
As the votes were cast Nov. 12, Archbishop Gomez was serving as the USCCB vice president, and the bishops customarily elected the vice president to the presidency. From a slate of 10 candidates, Gomez was elected with 176 votes, more than double the number of the second-place candidate.
If Gomez’s election was a formality, the election of the vice president was more evenly contested. The bishops needed three rounds of voting to winnow down the nine remaining candidates. Vigneron, a Michigan native, has led the Detroit archdiocese since 2009. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1975 and made an auxiliary bishop for Detroit in 1996. In 2003 he was named co-adjutor and later ordinary of the Diocese of Oakland.
Vigneron is widely considered to have provided steady leadership in Detroit during the recent sexual abuse crisis, even as the dioceses of the state face an ongoing Attorney General investigation.
The first latino
Archbishop Gomez, 67, born in Monterrey, Mexico, and ordained a priest of Opus Dei in Spain, is the first Latino to be elected president. He has served as conference vice president for the past three years, working alongside Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the outgoing president. His term as president begins when the assembly ends.
The Los Angeles prelate has been a leading advocate of immigrant rights, often voicing support for newcomers as they face growing restrictions being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.
“I just wanted to be a priest,” Gomez told CNA with a laugh, speaking about his election.
“Somehow God wanted me to do what I am doing, and I’m just counting on the grace of God to be able to be faithful to what God is asking me to do. And also on intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he added, explaining that he has entrusted all of his ministry as a bishop to the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In an interview with the website Angelus, the archbishop expressed gratitude to his brother bishops for the trust they placed in him. “It is really a moment of grace for me, and I’m extremely grateful to my brother bishops for thinking of me for this position. It is an honor for me to serve the Conference of Bishops and the people of the United States. It’s overwhelming, and at the same time I feel like it’s a moment of grace for me.”
To be president
As president, the archbishop will lead oversee the day-to-day operations of the conference, whose headquarters are located in Washington D.C. In order to lead the conference, he says he will be relying heavily on the advice and support of collaborators and staff in both LA and the nation’s capital. “The bishops, the priests, and also the lay faithful that are going to help me to really make the decisions that are appropriate for the needs of the church in the United States.”
He believes that despite what some believe, the U.S. bishops are focused on following the lead of Pope Francis at this “moment of renewal and reform” in the Catholic Church. “The bishops of the United States are united with Pope Francis,” Archbishop Gomez told Angelus. “The reality is that the Church of the United States is a large community, and I think it takes time to really get people to fully understand what the spirituality and ministry of Pope Francis is all about.”