April 28, 2015

New Archdiocese of Santa Fe archbishop ‘A Pope-Francis kind of appointment’

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St. Francis Cathedral in downtown Santa Fe is just a stone's throw from the State Capitol building. Photo credit: David Bailey

Pope Francis selected John C. Wester as the next Archbishop for the diocese of Santa Fe.

St. Francis Cathedral in downtown Santa Fe is just a stone's throw from the State Capitol building. Photo credit: David Bailey

St. Francis Cathedral in downtown Santa Fe is just a stone’s throw from the State Capitol building. Photo credit: David Bailey

Wester was recently the bishop of Salt Lake City. He will replace Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who has to retire after turning 75, in June.

In a press conference, Sheehan said, according to the Albuquerque Journal:

:This appointment was a Pope-Francis kind of appointment, representing the values that the pope himself has,” Sheehan said of Wester. “There were choices. It could have been different.”

Sheehan was seen as more conservative and has been the Archbishop since 1993.

The Associated Press mentioned his answer in relation to anti-poverty policies for the state.

“I believe Pope Francis has spoken eloquently about this very thing, especially how poverty has become institutionalized in our systems,” Wester said, according to the wire service.

The Salt Lake Tribune said that Wester is well known for his work in support of comprehensive immigration reform and that he is fluent in Spanish.

Wester is the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Communications Committee. He previously served as the chairman of the Committee on Migration.

In that role, he wrote a letter asking for immigration reform. From that letter:

Creating more legal avenues for migrant workers to come and work in our country, another reform component, would give law enforcement officials more time and money to pursue those who are a real threat–drug smugglers, human traffickers, and would-be terrorists. It would also help meet our future labor needs.

The Catholic Church is a political force in New Mexico. New Mexico Political Report looked at Allen Sánchez, the executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. Sánchez works with the bishops in the state and lobbies on their behalf during the legislative session.

ThinkProgress, a liberal website that is part of the Center for American Progress, mentioned Wester’s selection as a replacement for Sheehan. In specifics, the site wrote about Wester’s views on LGBT issues and contrasted it with those of Pope Francis.

Wester, like Cupich, has publicly upheld the Catholic Church’s historic opposition to same-sex marriage on multiple occasions, and called Utah’s embrace of marriage equality in 2013 “an affront to an institution that is at once sacred and natural.” More importantly, while his support for the new Utah LGBT protections law has been echoed by moderate and conservative Catholics alike, many activists argue the compromise — although a major achievement for equality advocates in the Beehive state — is not an ideal model for the rest of the country. Its wide-ranging religious exemptions are a testament to diplomacy, but are really only commonplace in deeply-religious Utah, where many laws already have religious exemptions. If the same exemptions were instituted in many other states, it would generally would be a step backward for LGBT rights.

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