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Pope names Detroit’s Daniel Flores as new Brownsville bishop

By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer

McALLEN, Dec. 9, 2009 (AP): Pope Benedict XVI chose a Texas native known as a great evangelizer in three languages to be the next bishop of Brownsville, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

Bishop Daniel Flores, 48, will take over for the retiring Bishop Raymundo Peña. Peña reached the mandatory retirement age for bishops when he turned 75 in February.

``It's a great fit,'' said Bishop Edmond Carmody of the neighboring Diocese of Corpus Christi, where Flores was ordained in 1988. ``We're very, very happy to have him back in Texas.''

Flores, born in Palacios along the Texas gulf coast and raised in Corpus Christi, comes most recently from Detroit where he served as an auxiliary bishop and led that archdiocese's Latino outreach.

In a prepared statement, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vignerón said Flores had ``placed the ministry to Hispanic Catholics here on a solid foundation.''

In his role in Detroit, Flores was outspoken in calling for immigration reform. On Wednesday, he said his new role would allow him to bear witness to the effect immigration policy has on families.

``The reform for immigration is long overdue,'' Flores said at a news conference at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in San Juan. The church's job is not to tell legislators what the law should say, but to outline guiding principles for the common good, he said.

Flores, switching between Spanish and English throughout his remarks, said the merger of cultures in the border region represents opportunities for cultural respect and solidarity.

Asked about his thoughts when first informed of the pope's decision, Flores laughed and said he thought, ``When will I be able to tell my mother?''

In Brownsville, Flores will take over a diocese of about 800,000 Catholics where Latinos are the overwhelming majority. The diocese, which runs along the Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley, covers one of the country's most impoverished regions. Nearly half live at or below poverty level, according to the diocese.

Latinos are playing an increasingly important role in the Catholic Church in the United States. About 45 percent of all Catholics under age 30 in the U.S. are Latino, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Nearly half of all immigrants in the U.S. are Catholic, according to the survey.

Flores' parents have roots along the Texas-Mexico border, both coming from families around Zapata, Texas, about 200 miles south of San Antonio.

He graduated from high school in Corpus Christi and attended the University of Texas at Austin for two years before entering seminary.

Flores spent his first decade as a priest in the Corpus Christi area until he was sent to Rome to pursue his doctoral studies, which he completed in 2000.

Upon returning to Corpus Christi in 2000, Carmody appointed Flores chancellor of the Corpus Christi diocese.

Flores left Corpus Christi to teach in seminary in Houston for four years, before returning to become rector of the Corpus Christi Cathedral in 2005.

In October 2006, Pope Benedict XVI named Flores auxiliary bishop to the Detroit archdiocese.

Flores will be installed as the Brownsville diocese's sixth bishop Feb. 2, 2010.






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