There are a lot of reasons why the announcement of a new archbishop for Los Angeles is big news.
- Los Angeles is far and away not only the biggest U.S. diocese by Catholic population — 4.2 million — it is also the biggest in total population — 11.6 million. (The next biggest diocese in terms of numbers of Catholics is New York, with 2.6 million.) It’s also among the top 10 biggest Catholic dioceses in the world.
- It counts for 6 percent of the entire U.S. Catholic population.
- The current archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, has served there a very long time — this summer marks 25 years. In that same period, the Archdioceses of New York and Washington, D.C., have each had three archbishops.
- Archbishop Gomez is the only Opus Dei priest to have become a U.S. bishop (although four other U.S. bishops are associated with Opus Dei through membership in the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross).
There are 23 other Opus Dei bishops around the world, including two cardinals (compared with more than 90 Jesuit bishops and nine cardinals). As head of the Church in Los Angeles, Archbishop Gomez also is almost certain to be made a cardinal (but likely not until 2016 when Cardinal Mahony turns 80, and thus becomes ineligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope).
- But maybe most noteworthy is the prominence of the appointment for a Latino bishop.
Los Angeles is home to the most Hispanic Catholics in the country (and reportedly the largest concentration of Mexicans outside Mexico City).
Mexican-born Archbishop Gomez is the senior ranking Latino bishop in the United States. There are 12 Latino bishops heading U.S. dioceses, making up a little more than 6 percent of U.S. ordinaries, or bishops who head dioceses. That’s a tiny percentage when you consider these statistics provided by the U.S. Bishops’ Conference’s secretariat for cultural diversity:
- Hispanics/Latinos are present in practically every diocese of the United States.
- More than 20 percent of all Catholic parishes in the United States have Hispanic/Latino ministry.
- Hispanics/Latinos compose more than 35 percent of all Catholics in the United States.
- Hispanics/Latinos have contributed 71 percent of the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States since 1960.
- More than 50 percent of all Catholics in the United States under age 25 are of Hispanic/Latino descent.
- To date, 40 Hispanic/Latino bishops (including auxiliary bishops) have been ordained in the United States, 28 of whom are active. They make up 9 percent of all Catholic bishops in the United States.
- Over the past few years, 15 percent of all new U.S. priests have been of Hispanic/Latino descent.
Don’t miss our story and interview with Archbishop Gomez on Page 4.