US bishops elect new leaders with Texas ties
By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service
The U.S. bishops elected new leaders during their fall general assembly held Nov. 13-17 in Baltimore. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop and elected vice president was Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.
Cardinal DiNardo said he is not planning on “creating a new vision” but hopes to continue the bishops’ priorities particularly focusing on dialogue and listening to Catholics.
For the past three years, he has served as USCCB vice president, a role that typically leads to election as president. He succeeds Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.
The cardinal said he plans to focus on the needs and concerns of Catholics, particularly members of the immigrant community who fear deportation with the recent election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. But he also said he remained hopeful about working with the new administration, saying its newness “offers options and possibilities.”
“We hope for a whole lot. This is brand new,” he told Catholic News Service.
The cardinal said he would listen to the voices of the immigrants and would work to ensure government leaders treat them with dignity, adding that the church in the U.S. has always stood with immigrants.
“We make our voices heard,” he said, “not by screaming in the streets but rather our voices are heard in the streets by our care and concern and our clarity, what we think is essential.”
Cardinal DiNardo, 67, said the key part of his role remains as a church leader, which is “where we show our shepherd’s heart.”
The cardinal, who was born in Steubenville, Ohio, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1977 and named a bishop 20 years later. He is a former bishop of Sioux City, Iowa. He has been archbishop of Galveston-Houston since 2006. He was named a cardinal in 2007 and participated in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said his election as vice president of the USCCB may have had more to do with his archdiocese than anything else.
“I’m grateful to my brother bishops for electing me,” he said, before adding that he thinks it was “also about the Archdiocese of Los Angeles” — the largest archdiocese in the country with about 5 million Catholics, 70 percent of whom are Latino. He said the archdiocese represents the universal church because every month there are Masses in 42 languages.
“Really, the presence of Catholics from all over the world is there,” he said, adding that the bishops recognize that the archdiocese represents “our church in the United States is becoming more and more diverse.”
They are also recognizing the “reality of the Latino presence” in this country, particularly in the Catholic Church, he said.
The Mexican-born archbishop, who will be 65 at the end of the year, is the first Latino to hold the vice president spot in the USCCB leadership, a position which is usually a steppingstone for USCCB president. He was served as archbishop of San Antonio from 2004 to 2010 before his appointment to Los Angeles. He said his background “helps everybody to understand how important it is to the church to be open and welcoming to the Latino community in the United States.”
He said he will continue to speak out in defense of immigrants, and he emphasized the importance helping everyone in the country understand the value of the human person.
Amid the overall sense of disunity in the nation after the presidential election campaign and vote, he said he has told people the first thing they need to do is pray. “Pray for elected officials, pray for one another and trust in the love of God that everything is going to be OK with trust in the grace of God.”
He also said the church’s message reminds us “of the value of the human person.” With that understanding, he said: “We need to go out of ourselves” and try to get to know other people, something that happens a lot, he said, in parishes where there are different ethnic communities.
“There is a sense of ‘who are these people?’ but then, when they get to know each other they love each other,” he added.
“That’s what is important for us at this time. Instead of just being afraid, let’s break the ice in a sense,” he said, stressing that this has been the message of Pope Francis, who frequently talks about the culture of encounter.
“I think that’s what the church is called to do at this time in the United States,” he said, adding that this outreach should also extend beyond our borders “to go out all over the world to support our brothers and sisters.”
Also during fall assembly, Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Austin Diocese was elected chairman of the U.S. bishop’s Committee on Migration. Also elected were Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, as chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, as chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles as chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis; Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services as chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, as chairman of the Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.