While New York and Los Angeles are oceans apart, they stand together when considering the impact they have on our culture. New York is a global powerhouse in the financial and media industries and Los Angeles is the movie capital of the world.
When Archbishop Dolan was appointed to New York, he was praised inside and outside of the church as a near-perfect fit for the Big Apple. His larger-than-life personality and charm has endeared him to the media, whom he welcomes — even when their questions are less than welcoming. With Archbishop Dolan, New York captures its tradition of selecting archbishops of Irish descent.
On the other hand, the appointment of Archbishop Gomez to the largest archdiocese in the country reflects the changing demographics in our church. The archdiocese is home to some 4.2 million Catholics, with about 70 percent of them Hispanic. When Pope Benedict XVI chose Archbishop Gomez, a Mexican-American, to be the next shepherd of Los Angeles, he acknowledged the growing Latino presence in this country.
“This is an epic moment in the life of the church in the United States,” Cardinal Mahony said in reaction to his successor’s appointment.
The Los Angeles Times stated that the selection of a Mexican-born archbishop “reflects the formal acknowledgment of a remarkable, decades-long shift in the center of gravity of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church — from Northeast to Southwest, from Eurocentric to Latino-dominated.”
Archbishop Gomez has held numerous leadership posts, both as a priest and bishop. In 2005, Time Magazine named him one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in the country. In 2008, he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a consultant to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and he also serves as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.
He is a leading church figure in the battle for immigration reform and has called immigration “one of the critical challenges the church faces in our hemisphere.” Archbishop Gomez is recognized as one of the church’s most eloquent proponents for immigration reform because of his ability to link the issue with Christian charity and justice.
“The church’s interest in immigration is not a recent development,” he told the Missouri Catholic Conference annual assembly in 2008. “It doesn’t grow out of any political or partisan agenda. No. It is part of our original religious identity as Catholics, as Christians. We must defend the immigrant if we are to be worthy of the name Catholic.”
Archbishop Gomez’s appointment to Los Angeles may seem unrelated to the church in Wisconsin, but that would be a mistaken assumption. With our own growing Latino population, Archbishop Gomez’s influence will in fact touch the church in Green Bay.