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Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces welcomes new bishop

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Feb 28 2013 09:53:06 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 10:36:25 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Vina reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

While many eyes were on the Vatican on Thursday as Pope Benedict XVI spent his last day as pope, Catholics in the southern New Mexico were watching Las Cruces.

The Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces held an installation mass for its second-ever bishop.

Hundreds of people packed the Las Cruces Convention Center to watch Oscar Cantu become the new bishop.

"As of two hours ago, the Catholic Church does not have a pope, but at this hour, Las Cruces has a new bishop," Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan told the crowd in opening statements.

During the two-hour installation mass, Cantu officially accepted responsibility as the bishop of Las Cruces.

"How did a kid from inner city Houston end up bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico?" he asked in his homily.

Cantu was appointed by now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. As the borderland welcomed the new bishop, many people said the pope's retirement made the day bittersweet.

"It's tinged with a little bit of sadness as the Holy Father has just retired. We won't say his name during official prayers during mass since he is not the pope anymore. So, there's something kind of odd and a bit sad about his going away," Cantu told ABC-7.

More than a dozen bishops from all over attended the ceremony including Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa. He was the bishop for Diocese of El Paso and still has administrative control over that diocese.

"I think he'll do wonderfully well. He has so many wonderful gifts and talents. It will be a wonderful transition from Bishop Ramirez to Bishop Cantu," Ochoa said.

Cantu said he understands the importance of leading the diocese that covers 10 counties in southern New Mexico and has more than 100,000 followers.

"I come in very mindful that there are lots of traditions here. I'm anxious to get to know people, get to know the priests and work together," he said.

Cantu takes the place of Bishop Emeritus Ricardo Ramirez who was the diocese's first ever-bishop, appointed in 1982.

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