"The fact that I am the Archbishop of Los Angeles gives me a beautiful opportunity to be with the people, because there are so many people active in the Church in Los Angeles. And also in the conference of bishops, really what's its all about it serving the people, so I hope that I can have the opportunity to be with people, in events where people are, and that I can continue to be a pastor which is, I believe, my vocation."
Gomez is the first bishop elected to lead the conference to be associated with Opus Dei, a Church group, founded in Spain and supported by Pope St. John Paul, that focuses on finding holiness in everyday life, and on the call to holiness of lay Catholics. The archbishop became affiliated with Opus Dei as a college student, and was a priest in the organization, formally called a personal prelature.
The archbishop's vision of the Church, focused on collaboration and friendship between laity and clerics, and on the idea that everyone should be a saint, is informed by his experience in Opus Dei.
"The spirituality of Opus Dei," he told CNA, "basically is to strive for holiness- personal sanctification - and ministry. Sharing our faith with everybody else."
"Most of the members of Opus Dei are lay faithful living their lives and working and trying to share the faith and to be holy."
"Everybody, starting with the pope and going through every single bishop, and priest, and deacon, we all are called to strive for holiness, with the universal call to holiness, provided to us by the Second Vatican Council, and also, as Pope Francis is insisting that we should be missionary disciples, so that means sharing our faith with everybody else," he added.
Gomez told CNA that groups like Opus Dei, along with other Church movements like the NeoCatechumenal Way and Communion and Liberation that have gained popularity in recent decades, emphasize "the universal call to holiness making a reality in the life of the Church."
"All of those different institutions that are promoting the vocation of the lay faithful are a blessing for the Church."
"By the work of the Holy Spirit there have been in the universal Church many groups of people working as a movement just to bring the beauty of the Chirstian life to the presence of the lay faithful all over the world," Gomez added, comparing Church movements to the diversity of ministries and apostolates in parishes, which he called "the center of Christian life in the United States."
The archbishop said that in his own ministry as a bishop, he looks to the example of Pope St. John Paul II, and, that among American bishops, he has been influenced and inspired by a number of bishops.
"Obviously in the United States I had the blessing of working together with Archbishop Chaput because I was his auxiliary bishop, so he has been a wonderful example to me. But I have been influenced by many other bishops: Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Patrick Flores, and then Cardinal William Levada, who just passed away, he was a good friend."
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Levada, Gomez told CNA, "asked me, when I was a young auxiliary bishop, to be a member of the doctrine committee of the USCCB. So that helped me to get to know the workings of the USCCB."
Gomez takes the helm of the bishops' conference in a difficult time.
The sexual scandals that emerged in June 2018, with revelations of abuse on the part of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, have preoccupied bishops and lay Catholics.
The ecclesiastical landscape has shifted too; the pontificate of Pope Francis is different in emphasis, tone, and style from those of his predecessors. Some U.S. bishops have been accused of resistance to Francis, and bishops have responded to his leadership in different ways.
"The reality of the bishops in the United States is that we all are faithful to Pope Francis," Gomez told CNA.
"I think we all are united. There is some perception that we are not. But the reality- what I see- is that we are united in our ministry and in our Church."