US Catholic bishops elect Mexican immigrant archbishop as president
© Thinkstock

The Roman Catholic bishops of the U.S. have elected a Los Angeles archbishop who is a Mexican immigrant as their president.

Archbishop José Gomez, who heads the Los Angeles archdiocese, will be the first Hispanic bishop to hold the title.

He was chosen to become the next president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with 176 votes, while his opponent received 18 votes. Gomez was recognized with a standing ovation after the election, The New York Times reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gomez, a defender of immigrants, was elected partly due to tradition after serving as the vice president for the conference, but some say his election acts as a statement against President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE’s immigration policies, according to the Times.

The archbishop said in a statement that he was "humbled" to be chosen as the next president.

“This election is an honor for me, and it recognizes the beautiful diversity and the missionary spirit of the family of God in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. But it is also a recognition of the essential place that Latino Catholics hold in the life of the Church and in the life of our great nation," he said in a statement obtained by The Hill.

 

The archbishop was widely expected to be elected president of the group that works within the political world through filing amicus briefs, lobbying Congress and negotiating with the White House on the Catholic agenda.

“It will be very meaningful,” San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Sille told The Washington Post in advance of the election. “He’s a symbol of opening roads for leadership for more Latino Catholics.”

Fewer U.S. Hispanics now identify as Catholic.

A decade ago, 57 percent of Hispanics identified as Catholic compared to 47 percent today, according to Pew Research Center. Almost 40 percent of U.S. Catholics identify as Hispanic.

The decision came as the Trump administration defended its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program at the Supreme Court. DACA has prevented hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from being deported. 

Gomez, a naturalized citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1987 and was appointed by Pope John Paul II in 2001, held a prayer service for DACA recipients on Monday evening, the Times reported. The archbishop said young people should not have “their lives dependent on the outcome of a court case.”

“So, we pray tonight that our president and Congress will come together, set aside their differences, and provide our young brothers and sisters with a path to legalization and citizenship,” the Times reported he said at the service.

Both Gomez and the elected vice president, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, will begin their terms after this year's General Assembly, according to a release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.