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Oakland Bishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, seen during Christmas Mass in 2011, has been named archbishop of San Francisco. (John Green/Staff)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oakland Bishop Rev. Salvatore Cordileone -- an active opponent of gay marriage -- will ascend to the rank of archbishop with a move to San Francisco, prompting disappointment by same-sex marriage activists and delight from their opponents.

Cordileone, 56, was appointed to the new job by Pope Benedict XVI, reflecting a conservative shift in the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI, said Charles Martel, president of Catholics for Marriage Equality, an active supporter of gay marriage.

Cordileone was appointed, he said, to halt the acceptance of gay marriage here and abroad, Martel said. "They see this as ground zero," he said.

San Francisco, the seat of the archdiocese, pioneered gay marriage and parishioners from several of its Catholic churches have participated in past "Gay Pride" parades.

Cordileone, in contrast, is a noted proponent of Proposition 8, the 2008 law passed by California voters to outlaw same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide in October whether it will hear arguments on the controversial law, which in 2010 was struck down as unconstitutional by a lower court.

In 2011, Cordileone urged Congress to uphold the law because same-sex marriage is a detriment to children and threatens the "fundamental human right of religious freedom."

Ron Prentice of the California Family Council, a major backer of Prop 8, expressed "deep gratitude" to Cordileone for motiving the church in California to participate in the campaign. Asked at Friday's conference for his stance about Prop. 8 and priest abuse, Cordileone replied, "I'm for marriage and against abuse."

He added: "Marriage can only come about through the embrace of a man and a woman coming together. I don't see how that is discriminatory against anyone."

A San Diego native, Cordileone had been installed as Oakland's bishop in May 2009.

He became the first Spanish-speaking bishop in the Oakland diocese's history.

His time in the East Bay "has given him a deep understanding of the radically diverse cultural composition of the Bay Area and a dedication to multicultural ministry," church spokesman George Wesolek said.

At a news conference Friday morning at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, Cordileone accepted the position with a speech he repeated in English and Spanish.

"The cultural diversity in San Francisco is a strength and a challenge," he said, adding that he hopes to understand both aspects better as he works to "learn the lay of the land" in his new parish of more than a half-million Catholics of which more than half are Latino or Filipino.

The archdiocese spans San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties.

Cordileone is known as a theologically conservative bishop faithful to the Catholic orthodoxy. He supports abolishing the death penalty but called on Catholics to vote for an initiative on the November ballot that requires parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.

Speaking about the priest abuse controversy, he said, "Our church suffered shame at the sexual abuse of children." But he said he feels that the church has made significant progress tackling the problem.

Cordileone came to Oakland from the San Diego diocese, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2007 after being slammed with claims by 150 alleged victims of sexual abuse and multiple civil trials. He denied allegations by creditors at the time that the diocese tried to protect its finances by hiding and downplaying the value of assets before bankruptcy proceedings began.

Twenty-six priests from the Oakland diocese have been the target of sexual abuse allegations, according to the BishopAccountability.org website, which tracks court records and media accounts involving abuse by Catholic clergy. The total in the San Francisco archdiocese is 36. Cordileone has refused to provide a list of priests involved in sexual abuse requested by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, according to David Clohessy, director of the organization commonly known as SNAP.

The bare minimum he could do is warn people, Clohessy said, "and he has not done that."

"He represents what the church believes about those issues," Wesolek said. But he said there are other issues -- affordable housing, poverty and violence -- to grapple with.

Cordileone is scheduled to be installed as archbishop on Oct. 4.

Staff writer Aaron Kinney contributed to this report.