BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles was elected to a three-year…
Archbishop Gomez, the new president of the USCCB, outlines his priorities
On Nov. 12, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the body of bishops gathered in Baltimore for its annual fall general assembly. Archbishop Gomez served the last three years as vice president of the conference, a position that generally serves as a training ground for the top position. Our Sunday Visitor caught up with him briefly in Baltimore shortly after his election.
Our Sunday Visitor: Archbishop Gomez, first, congratulations on being elected president of the USCCB. As the conference’s first president of Latino descent, what does it mean for the conference and for the American Church to have you as its leader for the next three years?
Archbishop José H. Gomez: For the bishops of the United States, it is a clear understanding of the presence of the Latinos in our country. For a long time, the bishops of the United States have said that Latino immigrants are a blessing for our country. It is more clear now that one of the priorities of the Conference of Catholic Bishops — and every single bishop in the country — is ministry to the Latino community, especially encouraging the Latino community to move into positions of leadership. We really need them to be active in our parishes, as they are, but even more to share with the whole Church the traditions and the blessings of their culture and their faith. As Pope Francis is telling all of us, we really need to be missionary disciples.
Our Sunday Visitor: As an immigrant yourself, you have written a book about immigration and spoken much about it. How will the topic of immigration influence your presidency?
Archbishop Gomez: First of all we need to pray more. We need to pray for our elected officials to really come up with immigration reform. And we also, as I was saying, need to promote relationships between the different cultures. What happens sometimes is that immigrants are not in close relationship with the other cultures in our country. It’s important to get to know each other, because then you can see that the immigrants that are coming to our country — as has been the history of this country — come here to provide for their families and to make a wonderful contribution to the life of our country. It’s important to get to know each other.
And then obviously we need to urge our elected officials to approve immigration reform according to the needs of our time. The last serious immigration reform was in 1986. Now things have changed, and it is important for all of us, including our elected officials, to understand that we need an immigration reform that responds to the needs of the people at this time.
Our Sunday Visitor: You are president during a challenging time for the Church. Many Catholics who love the Church are feeling betrayed and frustrated. How do you plan to lead the bishops in restoring trust within our Church?
Archbishop Gomez: It is clear that to all of us this is a time of renewal and reform in the Church. We are committed in the conference of bishops — and every single bishop in the United States — to continue the healing process of the people who have suffered the terrible tragedy of sexual abuse and also to continue absolute commitment to protect children. We all are committed to that. We need to pray and be active in making it happen. I also want to thank all of the priests and the lay faithful who are helping create the reality of the Church totally committed to zero tolerance and to the healing process of the victims. In every single diocese in the country, we have that commitment, and my hope is that we continue doing that — counting on the help of the grace of God and the commitment of all of us to protect children in our country.
Our Sunday Visitor: You are also present at a time in our country and Church where the number of Hispanics is growing at a rapid rate. How can the Church better reach out to Hispanics to make them feel more a part of the Church as a whole?
Archbishop Gomez: More than 50% of Catholics under the age of 18 are of Latino origin. I think the parishes are very open now, but obviously we need to find a way to integrate the cultures. I think the idea is not just to be present in the United States but to be part of this country and to actively participate in the life of the parishes and in public life, serving one another, helping the people in need, the homeless, the immigrant, in order to make a contribution to the common good of our society.
Our Sunday Visitor: What will be some of your other priorities?
Archbishop Gomez: The first one is the missionary work of the Church as Pope Francis is asking us to do — not just to be Catholic but to share our faith with the people that don’t know us and make a difference in our society, bringing those beautiful values, loving God and loving one another.
Our Sunday Visitor: How will your election to president of the conference change your day-to-day life?
Archbishop Gomez: I don’t know! I’m just finding out what it means, because it’s very different to be vice president than to become the president. Hopefully I can continue my main ministry — that is to be with the people and minister to the people in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and now maybe a little bit to everybody in our country. That is what is in my heart, and that is what is my vocation: to really be with people, helping them to love God, and to really be convinced that we can make a difference in our society.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.