LAS CRUCES — While the worldwide Roman Catholic Church found itself without a pope Thursday following the retirement of Benedict XVI, the Diocese of Las Cruces formally installed its new head, Bishop Oscar Cantú.
Cantú, the 46-year-old former auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, formally accepted his appointment as the second bishop of the southern New Mexico diocese, and the youngest in the U.S., during an elaborate two-hour-long Mass held at the Las Cruces Convention Center.
Cantú succeeds retiring Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, 76, who headed the 10-county diocese since its formation in 1982.
During the ceremony, attended by more than three dozen bishops and more than 100 priests and deacons, Cantú received his miter, a peaked hat worn by bishops, and a crosier, a crooked wooden staff that represents the priest’s role of shepherd to his flock.
In a homily during a Mass attended by more than 1,000 people, Cantú said it was the role of pastors to “feed the Lord’s sheep” with Jesus Christ’s “life-giving words, by his loving and abiding presence, by that true bread of life come down from Heaven.”
Cantú called on “my closest collaborators in this ministry, my priests, to help in guarding the rich deposit of faith, in all its integrity, its beauty and richness.”
Cantú, born in Houston, the fifth of eight children raised by Mexican immigrants from small villages near Monterrey, was ordained a priest in May 1994. An article in the February issue of the diocesan newsletter Agua Viva says Cantú is expected to focus on social justice and family life, ecumenism and education, and the challenges faced by the immigrant community.