- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 6, 2010

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday named Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio to take over the Los Angeles archdiocese when its current archbishop retires.

The appointment of the Mexican-born Archbishop Gomez as coadjutor for Los Angeles puts him in line to become the highest-ranking Latino in the American Catholic hierarchy and the first Latino Cardinal in the U.S.

Archbishop Gomez, 58, is a priest of the conservative Opus Dei order.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has been dogged by the clergy abuse scandal during his quarter-century tenure in Los Angeles, turns 75 next February. Under church rules, bishops submit their resignation at age 75.

Benedict can decide whether to keep him on the job longer. But the appointment of Archbishop Gomez as coadjutor indicates Benedict wanted a smooth transition to a new leader for the nation’s largest diocese.

Archbishop Gomez will have to oversee the fallout from the abuse scandal that came to light during Cardinal Mahony’s tenure.

In 2007, Cardinal Mahony agreed to a record-setting $660 million settlement with more than 500 purported victims of clergy abuse.

A federal grand jury is also investigating how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles handled claims of abuse, and has subpoenaed several witnesses, including a former Los Angeles priest convicted of child molestation and a monsignor who served as vicar for clergy under Mahony.

Cardinal Mahony’s attorney has said the cardinal, the longest-serving U.S. cardinal since the Second Vatican Council, is not a target of the investigation.

Cardinal Mahony said he and his bishops would work closely with Archbishop Gomez until early 2011, when Archbishop Gomez takes over the archdiocese, which counts more than 5 million members, 70 percent of them Hispanic.

“I welcome Archbishop Gomez to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with enthusiasm and personal excitement,” Cardinal Mahony said in a statement.

Archbishop Gomez was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and studied theology at the University of Navarra in Spain. He was ordained an Opus priest in 1978 and worked in the Houston-Galveston area and in Denver before being named archbishop of San Antonio in 2004.

Associated Press writer Rachel Zoll contributed from New York.

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