The Most Rev. Tomas Clavel, archbishop emeritus of Panama and “Vicar to Hispanics” in the Diocese of Orange, died Thursday after a heart attack and a brain hemorrhage. He had been stricken Wednesday afternoon and died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange.
He was 66, and was known as a champion of immigrant rights.
Said Bishop Norman F. McFarland: “The death of Archbishop Tomas Clavel is a tremendous loss to the entire Church of Orange, but in a special way to the Hispanic people of this diocese whom he so faithfully served. We join our voices to theirs and say, ‘ Descanse en paz ' (Rest in peace).”
As a result of a change in Panamanian leadership, Clavel was exiled from his native land in 1968. (He had officiated at the wedding that year of future Panamanian dictator Antonio Noriega.)
In 1971, Cardinal Timothy Manning, then the Archbishop of Los Angeles, invited Clavel to Orange County, where he had served as pastoral leader to half of Orange County’s 600,000 Latinos since 1977.