The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops elected its first Latino leader Tuesday.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, an immigrant from Mexico, has been serving as the UCCB vice president for the past three years, so the win was no surprise.
“I just wanted to be a priest,” Gomez told CNA about his new post. “Somehow God wanted me to do what I am doing, and I’m just counting on the grace of God to be able to be faithful to what God is asking me to do.”
Gomez is considered conservative theologically, but a strong advocate of welcoming immigration policy that would include a path to citizenship for many immigrants living in the country illegally.
In August, after a gunman targeting Mexicans killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Gomez wrote a powerful statement condemning white supremacy and noting that Spanish was spoken in North America before English.
The 67-year-old Catholic leader succeeds Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, whose presidency was complicated by the church's clergy sex-abuse crisis.
About 4 in 10 U.S. Catholics are Latino and they already comprise a majority in several dioceses, including Gomez' own archdiocese, which is about 70 percent Latino.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.