Bishop-elect Philip F. Straling, the first bishop of the newly created Roman Catholic diocese of San Bernardino, has answered the protests of Spanish-speaking groups to his appointment by saying that he is conscious of the importance of listening to the needs of Hispanic people.
The new bishop, whose appointment by Pope Paul VI was announced with the creation of the diocese on July 18 while Straling was on a trip to Africa, returned to learn that protest masses were being offered here and in San Diego by Hispanic priests.
At a news conference, Bishop-elect Straling said he was aware of the needs of Hispanic people from his experience as director of the San Diego diocesan synod, and from his studies at the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio.
"It is a great concern of mine," the 45-year-old prelate said. "I see the need for more Spanish-speaking priests and sisters."
"It was not my choice to be made bishop," he added. "Those who make these decisions know about the needs of the church and presumably took those needs into account."
A statement issued by Hispanic priests called for the appointment of a vicar and an auxiliary bishop of the new diocese who would be Spanish-speaking.
In a letter addressed to Timothy Cardinal Manning of Lost Angeles, the priests complained that Auxiliary Bishop Gilbert Chavez of San Diego had been passed over in the appointment.
Their letter referred to the economic, social, educational and psychological "bondage" of the Spanish-speaking Americans, and stressed the need for the church to take this into account when it appoints bishops.