Thousands of worshippers and guests are expected Wednesday at a special service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles to formally welcome Archbishop José Gomez to Los Angeles.

Only ticketholders and selected guests will attend the Mass for the Reception for Gomez, who will take over the Los Angeles Archdiocese when Cardinal Roger Mahony retires Feb. 27, his 75th birthday.

Gomez, who led the Archdiocese of San Antonio, will become the highest-ranking Latino in the American Catholic hierarchy and the first Latino cardinal in the U.S.

As Coadjutor, Gomez, 58, will become head of the three-county Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest Catholic Archdiocese in the United States, with more than 5 million members.

"I welcome Archbishop Gomez to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with enthusiasm and personal excitement," Mahony had said after the announcement in April. "The Auxiliary Bishops and I are looking forward to working closely with him over the coming months until he becomes the Archbishop early in 2011."

Archbishop Gomez was born in Monterrey, Mexico and spent his early priesthood in Texas.

"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," Archbishop Gomez said last month. "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.


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