Catholic bish­ops, in Baltimore, elect ad­vo­cates for im­mi­grants

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Jonathan Pitts jpitts@balt­sun.com

The na­tion’s Catholic bish­ops em­braced both tra­di­tion and change Tues­day when they elected as their top of­fi­cials a pair of prelates who lead two of the most di­verse — and most heav­ily His­panic — arch­dio­ce­ses in the United States.

More than 200 vot­ing mem­bers of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops, in Baltimore this week for their an­nual fall as­sem­bly, elected Car­di­nal Daniel N. DiNardo their pres­i­dent and Arch­bishop Jose H. Gomez their vice pres­i­dent.

DiNardo is arch­bishop of Galve­stonHous­ton, Texas, which has 1.6 mil­lion mem­bers, about 50 per­cent of them His­panic. Gomez is arch­bishop of Los An­ge­les, the na­tion’s largest Catholic dio­cese with 5 mil­lion mem­bers, more than 70 per­cent of them His­panic.

The elec­tion of DiNardo, known for his back­ground as a par­ish priest in south­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, his par­tic­i­pa­tion in nu­mer­ous com­mit­tees and his flu­ency in mul­ti­ple lan­guages, came as no sur­prise. As cur­rent vice pres­i­dent of the con­fer­ence, he was con­sid­ered a lock for the top job, and he cap­tured enough votes on the first bal­lot — 113 — to gain the re­quired sim­ple ma­jor­ity.

The choice of Gomez, 65, a na­tive of Mex­ico who is known as a gen­tle pas­tor and ad­vo­cate for im­mi­grants to the United States — here with le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion or oth­er­wise — was less pre­dictable.

Af­ter two votes failed to yield a sim­ple ma­jor­ity for any can­di­date, he squared off against Arch­bishop Gre­gory M. Ay­mond of New Or­leans — seen as a more mid­dle-ofthe-road choice — and won the of­fice by 24 votes, 105-81.

DiNardo’s elec­tion is in keep­ing with long-stand­ing tra­di­tion: Since 1956, ev­ery vice pres­i­dent but one who stood for elec­tion was el­e­vated to pres­i­dent. He’ll be­gin a three-year term when the as­sem­bly ad­journs Thurs­day.

His­pan­ics have long been the fastest­grow­ing seg­ment of the Catholic Church in the United States — at 30.5 mil­lion, they con­sti­tute about 44 per­cent of the church’s mem­bers.

The bish­ops are weigh­ing their op­tions as Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump pre­pares to as­sume power in Jan­uary.

Trump’s prom­ises to de­port 2 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion im­mi­grants who are in the coun­try with­out le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion and have com­mit­ted crimes, build a wall along the south­ern bor­der and bar Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the United States will likely place him on a col­li­sion course with the church. The bish­ops have made clear they view refugees and im­mi­grants from a pas­toral, not a po­lit­i­cal, per­spec­tive, wel­com­ing them as a mat­ter of re­li­gious duty.

Baltimore Arch­bishop Wil­liam E. Lori saw the elec­tions of DiNardo and Gomez as “very sig­nif­i­cant.”

“We’re rec­og­niz­ing the grow­ing His­panic pres­ence and in­flu­ence in the church, and I’m very pleased that we’re em­brac­ing and ac­knowl­edg­ing our fu­ture,” Lori said.

“Are we also say­ing to the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion that we’re concerned about the plights of im­mi­grants and refugees? You bet.”

Lori said he and most of his fel­low bish­ops were as sur­prised as any­one at Trump’s vic­tory last week, and ques­tions about his poli­cies have been a ma­jor theme at the as­sem­bly.

DiNardo and Gomez sat side by side at a news con­fer­ence af­ter their elec­tion Tues­day. Be­cause Trump has never held of­fice, they said, they were un­cer­tain how to en­gage the new ad­min­is­tra­tion on is­sues im­por­tant to the church.

Both ad­vo­cated prayer to help heal a church that was as di­vided as the gen­eral elec­torate by the ran­corous pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

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