With the retirement of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez has taken over leadership of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the United States.
“L.A. is home for me now,” the Mexican-born archbishop told the cardinal and the assembled worshipers at a Mass marking the transition of leadership on Feb. 27. “I pray that I will be worthy of continuing the work that you have begun here.”
Before a crowd of 3,500 faithful at Los Angeles' Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Cardinal Mahony ceremonially passed on his crozier to Archbishop Gomez, investing him with the traditional staff that symbolizes the leadership of the local bishop. On that same day, his 75th birthday, the cardinal submitted his resignation in a faxed letter to Pope Benedict XVI.
On Sunday, March 6, one week after the transition, Archbishop Gomez will celebrate his inaugural Mass as Archbishop of Los Angeles.
At the transition Mass, Archbishop Gomez graciously thanked the cardinal for his leadership of the archdiocese over the course of 26 years. Cardinal Mahony's legacy, he said, is “a Church that radiates the love of God and the truth of the Gospel.”
“He has shown us what Christ wants his Church to be – a communion of cultures and a communion of saints, one family of God drawn from every country, race, and language.” The archbishop said that Cardinal Mahony “has helped us open our hearts, to love God and to love our brothers and sisters.”
As the largest archdiocese in the country, Los Angeles is home to more than 5 million Catholics, 70 percent of whom are Hispanic. Archbishop Gomez, who was born in the Mexican city of Monterrey and later became a U.S. citizen, will be the first Hispanic Archbishop of Los Angeles.
He told the crowd that he hoped to continue Cardinal Mahony's work by inviting people of all backgrounds to participate in the life of the Church.
“I am inspired by his love for the immigrant, for the strangers in our midst,” Archbishop Gomez said. “I am challenged by his call for us to live the Gospel – to find Christ among the poor, to love the immigrant as our neighbor and our friend.”
Archbishop Gomez also spoke of the centrality of the priesthood to his own life, and the life of the Church.
“Cardinal Mahony knows it. Our brother priests know it,” he reflected. “To be his priests, this becomes the reason why we live. To bring Jesus to people, and to bring people to Jesus.”
“A priest is a priest forever,” Archbishop Gomez pointed out. “And a good bishop never forgets that he is, first of all, a priest.” He told the crowd that Cardinal Mahony was “now able to return to full time priestly ministry.”
“And that is such a beautiful thing – to be a priest,” Los Angeles' new archbishop noted.
While returning to priestly ministry on a smaller scale, Cardinal Mahony will be working on the issue of immigration. He wrote recently that he was “encouraged by the prospects of helping these silent millions in our midst” during his retirement.