Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles, a statement from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced today.

Archbishop Gomez, 58, will automatically become head of the three-county Archdiocese of Los Angeles, comprising approximately 5 million Catholics, upon Cardinal Roger Mahony’s retirement at age 75 on Feb. 27, 2011. A Mass of reception for Archbishop Gomez is scheduled for May 26. Cardinal Mahony will introduce Archbishop Gomez later today at a press conference.

“I welcome Archbishop Gomez to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with enthusiasm and personal excitement,” said Cardinal Mahony on his blog Cardinal Mahony Blogs L.A. “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.

“I have known Archbishop Gomez since he became auxiliary bishop of Denver in 2001, and subsequently, the archbishop of San Antonio in 2004,” Cardinal Mahony added. “Over the years he has been a most effective leader working with priests serving the Spanish-speaking communities across the country, and his leadership in proclaiming the dignity and rights of our immigrant peoples has helped motivate many people to advocate for our immigrants.”

Born in Monterrey, Mexico, and spending his early priesthood in Texas, Archbishop Gomez will become the first Hispanic archbishop of Los Angeles. When he succeeds Cardinal Mahony in 2011, Archbishop Gomez will head the largest Catholic archdiocese in the United States, with more than 5 million members, 70% of them Hispanic.

“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. “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.”