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Filipino American Bishop Is the First

Oscar Azarcon Solis is ordained in Los Angeles. His job in the archdiocese will be to unify various Catholic ethnic groups.

February 11, 2004|Christiana Sciaudone | Times Staff Writer

The first Filipino American bishop in the United States was ordained Tuesday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

The ordination of Oscar Azarcon Solis, 50, was attended by about 3,600 people, including about 400 priests and 40 bishops from the U.S. and the Philippines.

Solis is now one of five auxiliary bishops for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which represents Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

"I think the Filipinos and the Filipino Americans in the U.S. are honored by this appointment," said Alberto del Rosario, Philippine ambassador to Washington, who attended.

Solis, whose ordination was announced by the Vatican in December, assumes a new position in the archdiocese meant to help unify various Catholic ethnic groups.

"We are all Catholics, but we all bring our own culture," said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese. "He is going to help to integrate that even more than it is now."

Of about 5 million Catholics in the archdiocese, about 400,000 are Filipino, he said.

Solis speaks English, Tagalog, Spanish and Creole. He was born in the Philippines and ordained a priest there in 1979.

He immigrated to the United States in 1984 and worked as an associate pastor in Newark, N.J., for four years. He then spent 15 years in Louisiana, most recently as pastor of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Thibodaux.

Tamberg said he believed Los Angeles was the first archdiocese to have a bishop focusing mainly on cultural and ethnic integration.

"We've been a leader in the assimilation of cultures and ethnic expressions of Catholicism in this country, and other archdioceses watch what we do," he said.

Catholic churches in the Los Angeles area hold Masses in 38 languages, he said.

A large majority of the audience Tuesday was Filipino, many wearing barongs, traditional Filipino formal wear.

The ordination by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was "significant because we do constitute a large group in the diocese," said Jennifer Masculino Tolentino, 51, of Silver Lake.

Solis, she said, "will be able to represent us."

Tolentino's husband, Casimiro, 53, said Solis "understands more the sensibilities and sensitivities of the Filipino community here."

Angel Rice, 48, who drove from Lancaster with two friends for the ceremony, said, "There's a lot of unity among Filipinos and a strong sense of pride in our faith."

It was the first ordination of a bishop at the downtown cathedral, which was dedicated in September 2002.

Despite requests for no videotaping, at least one priest held a camera up to capture the moment.

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