Catholic bishops across the United States voted to elect Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles as the next president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, making him the first Latino person to hold this position.
Gomez was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and is now a naturalized American citizen. He is one of the most prominent figures in the Catholic community and has held many roles within the Church, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Prior to being elected as president, Gomez held the position of Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB, for three years.
This election puts a new focus on the issue of immigration and how the Catholic Church approaches it. During his time in the Catholic community, Gomez has been vocal about his views on immigration reform. His 2013 book, “Immigration and the Next America,” outlines the importance of immigration in America’s identity.
Gomez “comes from the conservative side of the Catholic theological spectrum [but maintains] the legacy of progressive Catholicism in Los Angeles, especially in the protection of immigrant rights,” according to Rev. Dr. Joseph Palacios, fellow for the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC.
Rosie Chinea Shawver, director of campus ministry at the USC Caruso Catholic Center, noted how Gomez’s new position may be beneficial for many members of the Catholic community.
“He will be a great advocate for many people,” she said, “[and] continue to fight for justice and for people who don’t have a voice.”
Shawver also considered the church’s stance on immigration in light of other opinions on current events, such as Trump’s recent attempted redaction of the DACA program.
“There were several statements from the USCCB on keeping DACA around,” she said. The church’s views on immigration focus on the balance between prioritizing human rights and still upholding laws, Shawver also explained.
According to their own website, the USCCB has expressed their support for comprehensive immigration reform, rather than “enforcement only” immigration policies.
The presidential term for Gomez officially begins on Nov. 14.