SAN ANTONIO – Former Archbishop Patrick Flores has died at the age of 87, according to Rev. David Garcia of Mission Concepcion. He died of pneumonia and congestive heart failure, the Archdiocese said.
Flores led the Archdiocese of San Antonio from more than two decades.
Born on July 26, 1929 he was the sixth of nine children. Flores was ordained on May 26, 1956 and served as the assistant pastor of the Holy Name Catholic Church in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston.
In May 1970, at 40, he was consecrated as the first Mexican-American bishop of the United States.
“The church cannot remain neutral or passive since she is both the teacher and mother to all people. And as teacher and mother, the church wants all of her children treated with justice – and afforded their dignity befitting all sons of God,” he said during his instillation. “If minorities are seeking justice, the church need not be afraid to be present with them in their quest.”
Flores was also the first Mexican-American to rise to a high rank in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, according to the Archdiocese website. With his appointment as Archbishop in 1979, he became the leader of the largest province of dioceses in the country.
Pope John Paul II conferred the pallium on Archbishop Flores on May 25, 1982
Patrick also welcomed Pope John Paul II during his papal visit to San Antonio in 1987. The two-and-a-half hour Mass was celebrated before a crowd of 330,000 people and remains the record for the largest gathering in the state of Texas.
He made national headlines when he was held hostage at the Church’s San Antonio headquarters in 2000.
Patrick was not injured during the nine-hour standoff. After stepping down as leader of the Archdiocese, he became Archbishop Emeritus.
Flores held several roles during his time leading the Archdiocese – he was a member of the Immigration and Refugee Department of the United States Catholic Conference, chairman of the Church in Latin America Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and chairman of the Texas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Before his death, he lived in Padua Place, a retirement home in San Antonio for priests.