U.S., Mexico Catholic bishops meet to renew their 'Alta-Baja' friendship

IMAGE: CNS photo/Aida Bustos, Diocese of San Diego

By Aida Bustos

DIEGO (CNS) — Three archbishops and nine bishops representing at least 13
million Catholics from Sacramento to the Mexican coastal city of Ensenada have
resurrected their “Alta-Baja” friendship, paving
the way to potentially working together in the future.

Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez and Archbishop Francisco Moreno Barron
of Tijuana, Mexico, had worked with their respective episcopal organizations
for more than a year to coordinate a meeting of the two sides.

efforts culminated in an “Encuentro de los Obispos de Alta y Baja California” held
recently in the San Diego Diocese.

California Conference of Catholic Bishops organized the participants north of
the border, which included San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and
seven bishops.

conference’s president, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, chaired the meeting, and
its vice president, San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy, hosted the Oct. 30 event,
which ended with a dinner.

Tijuana Archdiocese coordinated the participation of its retired archbishop and
the bishops of Ensenada and Mexicali.

purpose of the six-hour meeting was for the leaders from one side of the border
to meet their counterparts from the other, and see where the conversation took
them. The bishops spoke candidly, often one elaborating on a point raised by
one of their colleagues.

shared what was occurring in their individual dioceses regarding issues of
common interest, such as immigration; the North American Free Trade
Agreement, known as NAFTA;
and “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis’ call to protect the environment.

immigration, the California bishops described how the Trump administration’s
executive orders related to immigration had sowed fear in their dioceses as deportations increased.

their part, the Baja California bishops said the deported migrants face bleak
conditions in their communities, which lacked the resources to assist them.

the end, the bishops committed to meeting next October, this time in Baja
California, to explore ways they could work together to strengthen each other’s

was the resurrection of Alta-Baja,” said Archbishop Gomez, referring to the
name of the group of bishops from both sides of the California-Mexico border
that had met regularly until the early 2000s.

which means “higher” in Spanish, and “Baja” California, or “lower,” were once
one territory. In the 19th century, the vast area was governed first by Spain
and then by Mexico. Alta California became part of the United States in the
Treaty of Hidalgo of 1848, which ended the Mexican-American War.

Gomez noted that when Pope Francis visited Mexico last year, he urged the
bishops there to step up their coordination with their U.S. counterparts, given
that so many Latino Catholics live north of the border.

think it’s important to find new ways to help our people to grow in their spirituality
and to grow in their missionary spirit,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Archbishop Moreno Barron said the most important outcome of the gathering was
the opportunity to meet each other — and to build from there.

than the words we exchanged were the attitudes we shared,” he said. “We did not
know each other but we saw each other as brothers in faith.”

the meeting, the Tijuana archbishop said he had recently attended a meeting of
a group of bishops from the Texas-Mexico border, known as Tex-Mex. He expressed
the hope that a bishop from that organization could join next year’s meeting of
the Alta-Baja bishops.

Gomez participated in Tex-Mex during the five years he served in San Antonio.
He’s familiar with the benefits and challenges of working on cross-border

said that people on both sides of the border are faithful to the Catholic Church
and share similar roots. “It’s important to learn from each other and to work

participants from California included Bishops Michael C. Barber of Oakland,
Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Richard J. Garcia of Monterey, Armando X. Ochoa
of Fresno and Auxiliary Bishops Alexander Salazar of Los Angeles and John P.
Dolan of San Diego.

Baja California, Bishops Jose Isidro Guerrero Macias of Mexicali and Rafael
Valdez Torres of Ensenada participated, as did retired Tijuana Archbishop Rafael
Romo Munoz.

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writes for The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

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