Pope gives new bishop to Catholics in Fresno diocese

by Marianne Medlin

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Bishop Armando X. Ochoa. Credit: Rio Grande Catholic Newspaper of the Diocese of El Paso.

Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of El Paso, Texas was named today as the new bishop of Fresno, Calif. by Pope Benedict XVI.

“I am humbled and deeply honored that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, would offer me this new challenge at my age,” said Bishop Ochoa, who will fill a position left vacant by the death of Bishop John Steinbock in December 2010.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican's recently appointed representative to the U.S., made the announcement in Washington D.C. on Dec. 1.

Bishop Ochoa said he was told of his appointment at the U.S. bishops' recent November assembly in Baltimore, Md.

Archbishop Viganò “pulled me aside and broke the news to me,” he said. “I am still in a state of shock!”

A native of California, Bishop Ochoa was born in 1943 in Oxnard and studied at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1970.

Bishop Ochoa served in numerous Los Angeles parishes and was associate director of the Spanish-speaking permanent diaconate for the archdiocese.

He was named an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 1986, and bishop of El Paso in 1996. Nationally, he has served on the U.S. bishops’ conference committees for vocations, the laity, the permanent diaconate, Hispanic affairs and migration.

Bishop Ochoa will lead a population of over 2 million—around half of which are Catholic—including 166 priests and over 150 religious.

He noted that his new diocese is under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, former archbishop of San Antonio.

“As is turns out, my former Metropolitan Archbishop,” he said, “becomes my new Metropolitan Archbishop.”

Bishop Ochoa told the El Paso community that he has been “privileged” to know them and assured them of his prayers as he moves forward to Fresno.

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