Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio to succeed Cardinal Roger Mahony as head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, putting the Texan in line to become the highest-ranking Latino Catholic church leader in the United States.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese made the announcement Tuesday that the 58-year-old Mexican-born archbishop would become the second-in-line coadjutor-archbishop before taking the reigns when Mahony retires Feb. 27 on his 75th birthday.

Gomez's appointment was said to reflect the Pope's appreciation of his conservative leadership of the church's orthodox Prelature Opus Dei. The Mexican-born leader would be in line to become North America's first Latino cardinal.

“I'm very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this opportunity to serve the Church with a mentor and leader like Cardinal Roger Mahony,'' Gomez stated. “I'm grateful to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, for supporting the Holy Father's confidence in me. I will try with all my strength to earn that trust.''

With five million Catholics — 70 percent Latino — Los Angeles has the nation's most-populous archdiocese and the one with the most Latino parishioners.

-With reporting from Weekly wire services. Got news? Email us.

LA Weekly