Bishop John C. Wester of the Diocese of Salt Lake has been named archbishop of Santa Fe, the Vatican announced Monday.
Wester, who will replace the retiring Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, has been a vocal proponent of immigration reform. He is the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Communications Committee.
A San Francisco native, Wester has led the Diocese of Salt Lake since 2007, presiding over one of the fastest growing local churches in the United States, fueled largely by Hispanic immigrants.
Wester is considered a moderate in the American hierarchy.
In January, he told Crux he didn’t oppose proposed LGBT non-discrimination laws in Utah.
He cited a bill in the last legislative session to protect LGBT people from housing and workplace discrimination. “What I saw looked fine to me. I had no problem with it,” he said. “It was a law that talked about not discriminating against people. The Catholic Church does not discriminate, so I have no problem with it.”
He said he is waiting to see new legislation, and as long as it includes provisions for Catholics “to practice our faith without discrimination, without repercussions or reprisals,” he doesn’t imagine opposing such measures.
In the shadow of the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Diocese of Salt Lake worked with their Mormon counterparts on many social justice projects under Wester. But on the ground, tensions remained, especially in rural Utah, competing for Hispanic worshippers.
Wester is to be installed in a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe on June 4.
It is expected that he will travel to Rome later that month to receive the pallium – a special vestment conferred on archbishops by the pope – along with the only other US archbishop named in the past 12 months, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich.
Sheehan became Santa Fe’s archbishop in 1993 after then-Archbishop Robert Sanchez resigned amid allegations of sexual relations with women.
Sheehan led abuse investigations, removed priests, and oversaw the financial consequences of lawsuits.
He turned 75 last July, the age at which prelates must retire under Church law. He said he plans to live in Albuquerque.
The Santa Fe Archdiocese includes more than 300,000 Catholics in central and northern New Mexico.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.