LA Catholics welcome coadjutor archbishop

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Archbishop Jose H. Gomez (C) and Cardinal Roger Mahony (R) take part in a welcoming Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels May 26, 2010 in downtown Los Angeles, California.

The future leader of the nation's most populous Roman Catholic archdiocese was welcomed Wednesday with standing ovations in a religious service marked by clear indications that support for immigrants will be a priority.

The Mass of Reception marked the start of Coadjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez's ministry as an assistant to Cardinal Roger Mahony, who will retire next February.

Gomez then automatically becomes the archbishop without ceremony. Gomez will assume full leadership of the Archdiocese which encompasses nearly 300 perishes and more than four million Catholics in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It's the largest Archdioces in the United States and an international platform for the Catholic Church.

Mahony appeared eager to turn over the reins, inviting Gomez to sit in his chair in the packed Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Born in Monterrey, Mexico, the 58-year-old Gomez will become the first Hispanic archbishop of the Los Angeles archdiocese at a time when illegal immigration from Mexico is a heated political issue. Gomez is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

He most recently headed the San Antonio Archdiocese.

He promised to stand tough against child abuse in the church and to continue Mahony's emphasis on immigrant rights. Gomez is member of Opus Dei. His appointment by the Pope increases the influence of that conservative Catholic order.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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