The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas will welcome a new bishop in May to succeed Bishop Joseph A. Pepe.
Bishop George Leo Thomas, who currently presides over the Helena diocese, Montana, will be installed as the third bishop of Las Vegas on May 15.
The appointment of Thomas by Pope Francis was announced on Wednesday by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Ambassador of the Vatican to the United States. On June 18, 2017, the 75th birthday of Pepe, Pepe submitted a letter of resignation to the Pope, as required by church law.
Thomas has been Helena’s bishop for almost 14 years. He was born in Anaconda, Montana and grew up in Butte. His family moved to Seattle when Thomas was a high school graduate, and in 1976 he was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Seattle.
In Seattle, Thomas served in four parishes, led the diocese Catholic charities and the archdiocese housing department, and was night chaplain in King County Jail for 13 years. He was chancellor and vicar general to three archbishops for over 17 years. He was named auxiliary bishop of Seattle in 1999 and was named bishop of Helena on June 4, 2004.
Thomas said Wednesday that he has always “deeply loved and admired Pope Francis” for caring for immigrants, the poor and others on the margins of society and warning the Pope “to avoid what he termed the globalization of indifference “.
He hopes that the Pope’s pastoral concerns will “be a theme and a leitmotif for the work I do in Las Vegas.”
Thomas and Pepe both said they have known and worked together for years. Thomas said his move from Montana, a diocese with “more cows than Catholics,” to Las Vegas was aided by Pepe’s own views on Las Vegas.
“If he’s describing the diocese of Las Vegas, he’s got what would you say, a Sicilian animation,” joked Thomas. “He obviously loves you to death and I feel very encouraged by his enthusiasm.”
Thomas also praised Pepe’s “pastoral presence” after filming on October 1, “when the heart of Las Vegas was broken”. Thomas said he welcomed a national conversation on gun violence.
“I’m from a second change state,” he said, and although the conversation may be difficult, “I think it’s (of) the moment and I would like to see a national conversation that builds on the hearts of the young What.” they have experienced. “
Thomas said, “I don’t think Las Vegas is alien to this dialogue.”
Thomas, who has reached out to other US bishops and made public statements on the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals program, said, “I am well aware of the tremendous need for immigration reform.”
The bishop said he expected to learn more about the needs of southern Nevadans. “I think my leadership style is pastoral, open mind, open heart. I think I learn pretty quickly, ”he said. “I describe myself as a pastor who happens to be mitered.”
Pepe, who was installed as Bishop of Las Vegas in May 2001, plans to retire to southern Nevada. Thomas said he plans to seek Pepe’s advice on his new responsibilities.
The Diocese of Las Vegas includes counties of Clark, Lincoln, White Pine, Esmeralda and Nye and was founded in 1995 by the division of the former Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas. According to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, 643,900, or 32 percent of the diocese’s population, are Catholic.
Contact John Przybys at [email protected] or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.