In this week's edition of Vatican Connection we go through the headline: the Pontifical Council for Culture takes on the issue of doping in sports, we introduce you to one of our Vatican Connections, the director and editor in chief of Catholic News Service and Royalty stops by to visit Pope Benedict.
For me, the real attention grabber in this week's program comes in the "Rinunce e Nomine" section, or the "Resignations and Nominations" section. Why? Because it reveals a new reality in the North American church that is being noticed on a wider scale than ever before.
In Las Cruces, New Mexico Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, CSB retired after having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. His successor is Bishop Oscar Cantu from the diocese of San Antonio. The appointment reflects a new reality in the demographics of the U.S. and Canada: a thriving Hispanic community.
According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2011 a full 16.7 percent of the national population was Hispanic. That sounds small, but it translates to 52 million people. New Mexico the percentage of the population that identified themselves as Hispanic, was significantly higher at 46.7 percent. Yet a search through Catholic Heirarchy, a lay-run website that tracks Episcopal appointments around the world, show that until recently bishops appointed to dioceses like Las Cruces with a large Hispanic - Catholic population, were unlikely to be from a Hispanic background themselves.
Not only have recent episcopal appointments reflected the new demographic, but the local church itself has embraced its new reality. In July 2012, the Archdiocese of San Fransisco launched a weekly Spanish language newspaper. Los Angeles also publishes a Spanish language version of its diocesan paper while Galveston-Houston offers a full Spanish language version of its diocesan website.
This focus on reaching Hispanic Catholics is not limited to southern U.S. states and dioceses. Since 2010 the Archdiocese of Seattle has distributed a Spanish Language newspaper, El Progresso, both in print and on-line. On its website the archdiocese states that 5000 copies go to parishes with Hispanic ministry, while 10,000 go to small businesses in the Hispanic community. Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah told Salt + Light in 2012 his diocese had one of the largest Spanish speaking populations in the U.S. Church.
For Bishop Wester that mean he has a keen interest in the decisions his government makes regarding undocumented immigrants. However the U.S. government decides to handle the situation, it will affect the Catholics of Salt Lake City - and many other dioceses- and their pastoral needs.
Even further north, Canadian dioceses have also turned their attention to embrace their new Spanish speaking communities. In Vancouver a Spanish language Mass is celebrated at the downtown Cathedral every Sunday at 6:30 pm, making it the only diocese in Canada to do so. In 2012 the Archdiocese of Ottawa canonically created a personal parish for the Spanish speaking community. Across the country as well, several dioceses have parishes that offer Mass in Spanish.
While this increased attention to the pastoral needs of Spanish speaking Catholics in North America is still too slow for some Hispanic Catholic's liking, it is a welcome turn of events and reflects even more the universality of the Church.
Errata Corrige : in this week's edition of Vatican Connections we referred to Most. Rev. Ricardo Ramirez and Most. Rev. Oscar Cantu as archbishops. Las Cruces is a diocese, not and archdiocese, and we should have referred to both men as "Bishop".