BALTIMORE — Garnering a total of 113 votes, Galveston-Houston’s Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was elected as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) president on Tuesday, November 15.
The former USCCB vice president will succeed Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, whose three-year term as president was completed. Sitting alongside with him as vice president is Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the first Latino to hold the position.
Known as a theological conservative and an outspoken immigrant-rights advocate, Cardinal DiNardo’s election sets up potential conflicts with President-elect Donald Trump. Recalling Trump’s campaign, he called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and pledged to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In connection to this issue, Pope Francis sent a message to the US church leaders on Tuesday, praising the contributions of Latino Catholics and noting that the “rich variety of their languages and cultural traditions” had enriched the church and the country. The Pope urged the U.S. church to “go out from its comfort zone” and heal a society facing “increasing polarization.”
“Our great challenge is to create a culture of encounter which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of their traditions and experience; to break down walls and to build bridges,” Pope Francis said.
Since among his duties will be guiding the bishops’ relationship with Trump, DiNardo said in a news conference that on the level of immigration, from their point of view, they respect the government. He furthered “But we also have the shepherd’s heart. If there’s somebody hungry, we’re going to feed them. If there’s somebody thirsty, we’re going to give them something to drink. If there’s somebody who is a stranger, we want to make them welcome.”
According to the CARA research center at Georgetown University, Catholics, with more than 68 million members, are by far the largest faith tradition in the U.S. With a mission to help people be united in the country and have hope, Gomez affirmed the U.S. church has a nationwide network of legal and social service programs for immigrants and refugees.