Some 1,000 Roman Catholics attended a rally and mass here to protest the relative shortage here of Spanish-speaking bishops and to register their disappointment with the recent naming of Bishop-elect Philip F. Straling, to the new San Bernardino diocese.
Straling was appointed in July, disappointing Hispanics who had hoped to have the first California diocesan bishop of Mexican ancestry. The appointment had passed over three Hispanic auxiliary bishops in California, the Hispanic group asserted.
Hispanic activists claim that the San Bernardino diocese, which includes 235,000 Catholics in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, is 65 per cent Spanish-speaking. The estimate includes persons not on parish roles. Other estimates hold that Hispanics comprise 25 percent of the Catholics membership.
Leaders attending the largely Hispanic rally here said they hoped it would be the first of a number of regional demonstrations to protest the Catholic hierarchy's failure to secure appointments of more Spanish-speaking bishops and leaders.
Among prominent Hispanic leaders attending the rally were Cesar Chavez, head of the United Farm Workers Union of America; Auxiliary Bishop Gilberto Chavez of San Diego, and Armando Navarro, organizer for the Congress for United Communities.
Straling, a native of San Bernardino, spoke at the rally, first in halting Spanish and then in English. He said one of his first acts after his installation Nov. 6 will be to establish a Hispanic office, headed by a Hispanic vicar.
The San Diego diocese was divided to form the new San Bernardino diocese. Bishop-designate Straling was one of the last bishops appointed by the late Pope Paul VI.
Pressure to appoint Spanish-speaking bishops has increased, especially in the Southwest. A Hispanic lobby of bishops, priests, sisters and laity has urged appointment of Hispanic bishops over dioceses having more than 50 percent Hispanic Catholic populations.
Only eight of the nation's 350 Catholic bishops are Hispanic, including five Hispanic auxiliary bishops. Estimates of the size of the Hispanic population in the U.S. varies. Rally supporters here said nearly half of the baptized Catholics in this country are Hispanic. Auxiliary Bishop Juan Arzube of Los Angeles said the figure is closer to 25 percent.