Image: Daniel DiNardo
Nick De La Torre  /  AP
The appointment of Daniel N. DiNardo, right, was a surprise and appeared to indicate Pope Benedict’s desire to reach out to Texas' large Hispanic community.
updated 10/17/2007 10:29:55 PM ET 2007-10-18T02:29:55

Texas Catholics celebrated the appointment Wednesday of one of their two archbishops to become the state’s first Roman Catholic cardinal.

Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, was among 23 new cardinals named Wednesday by Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict said he would elevate the prelates at a Vatican ceremony Nov. 24.

“It says something about Texas and how wonderful Texas is in the terms of the growth of our Catholic faith,” DiNardo said Wednesday at a news conference in Houston.

DiNardo said the size of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese has doubled in the last 10 years due to immigration from Mexico and Central America, Asia and Africa. Catholics have long been the largest single religious group in the state, said Jennifer A. Carr, associate director of the Texas Catholic Conference.

DiNardo’s nomination was something of a surprise and appeared to indicate Benedict’s desire to reach out to the state’s large Hispanic community. Texas has about 6.5 million Roman Catholics. About 1.3 million live in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.

DiNardo, 58, who for six years worked at the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, was only named archbishop last year. There are several other U.S. archdioceses that usually have cardinals leading them, including Washington and Baltimore, but the pope did not elevate their archbishops.

Brian Schmisek, dean of the School of Ministry at the University of Dallas, a Catholic liberal arts university in suburban Irving, said all Texas Catholics should be proud.

“The appointment is a signal that the Vatican recognizes the growing importance of the Catholic Church in Texas,” he said in a news release.

Group decries selection
Not everyone applauded the appointment.

David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said DiNardo had an “abysmal” record dealing with clergy sex abuse issues while serving as bishop of the Sioux City, Iowa, diocese from 1997 until 2004, and that his record didn’t improve in Houston.

“We’re disappointed by this choice and believe Catholics should be disappointed, too,” he said.

In 2004, John Paul selected DiNardo to replace Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, who announced his resignation last year because he reached the 75-year-old age limit for the job. DiNardo will continue to oversee the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.

The only other American named a cardinal Wednesday was Archbishop John Foley, a longtime Vatican official who was recently named grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

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