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Archbishop calls for prayer after priest admits fathering children

January 4, 2012 |  2:11 pm

Gabino Zavala, 60

The Most Rev. Gabino Zavala, an important figure in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a venerated champion for social and economic justice, resigned his post as auxiliary bishop Wednesday after revealing to the Vatican that he is the father of two teenage children.

Zavala, 60, had overseen the archdiocese’s San Gabriel region since 1994. One of the church’s five pastoral regions, San Gabriel is home to hundreds of thousands of the area’s five million Catholics, 66 parishes and 13 high schools — and a diverse community considered vital to the future of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.

Zavala’s violation of the church's requirement that priests be celibate, represents the first test of the tenure of Archbishop Jose Gomez, who succeeded Roger Mahony last year.

Gomez responded with a letter to his flock Wednesday announcing the news, which elicited shock and despair.

"He is the father of two minor teenage children, who live with their mother in another state," the letter said. "Let us pray for all those impacted by this situation and for each other."

Gomez declined to be interviewed, and the church declined to reveal additional details. Asked whether Zavala is involved with the children’s lives, and why the information suddenly surfaced after so many years, archdiocese spokesman Tod M. Tamberg said: "Those are questions for Bishop Zavala to answer."

A church official did reveal that the children are not twins — indicating Zavala had more than a passing relationship with the children’s mother.

Zavala could not be reached for comment; the voice mail on his cellphone was full.


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Photo: Former Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala.

Credit: KTLA News