American bishops on November 12, 2019, elected Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The election came during the USCCB Fall Assembly in Baltimore. He becomes the first Latino to hold the highest leadership position in the American Catholic Church.
The Archbishop expressed his enthusiasm in a message on Twitter: “The election to @USCCB president is an honor — not only for me, but also for @lacatholics and for every Latino Catholic in the country. I promise to serve with dedication and love, and to always try to follow Jesus Christ and seek his will for his Church here in the US. #USCCB19″
The 67-year-old Mexican-born prelate was given a standing round of applause from his brother bishops after it was announced that Archbishop Gomez had received 176 votes out of the 238 votes cast in the Tuesday morning vote according to Angelus News, the publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit was elected conference vice president.
Archbishop Gomez succeeds the outgoing president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who finishes his three-year term at this month’s meeting. DiNardo and Gomez were elected president and vice-president, respectively, at the conference’s fall meeting in 2016.
In an interview with 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.”
Archbishop Gomez 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.
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.”
The prelate, who previously served as an auxiliary bishop in Denver and archbishop in San Antonio before being appointed to Los Angeles in 2010, also acknowledged the challenge of the additional leadership role while continuing to shepherd the nation’s largest archdiocese.
“I need to find a way to not lose the sense that my main mission is to be a pastor, both at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and also at the USCCB,” the 67-year-old Mexican-born prelate told Angelus. “That is what God is asking me to do. Not to be just an administrator, but also be a pastor that brings the presence of Christ to the people.”