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Pope Francis elevates Las Vegas to a metropolitan archdiocese

The Vatican has announced that Bishop George Leo Thomas will be the first metropolitan archbishop of Las Vegas. | Diocese of Helena

Vatican City, May 30, 2023 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis created a new ecclesiastical province in the United States on Tuesday by elevating Las Vegas to a metropolitan archdiocese.

The Vatican announced on May 30 that Bishop George Leo Thomas will be the first metropolitan archbishop of Las Vegas. Thomas has served as the bishop of Las Vegas since 2018.

The new Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas will include the suffragan dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City.

Las Vegas, which has had the notorious nickname “Sin City” since the 1930s, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.

The Archdiocese of Las Vegas has a total population of 2.3 million people, of whom 620,000 are Catholics, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In the Catholic Church, an ecclesiastical province is a territory consisting of at least one archdiocese and several smaller dioceses known as “suffragan sees.”

Formerly, the dioceses of Las Vegas, Reno, and Salt Lake City were all suffragan dioceses of the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of San Francisco. With the new changes, the ecclesiastical province of San Francisco still has 14 million people, 3.3 million of whom are Catholics.

The Diocese of Las Vegas was created in 1995 when Pope John Paul II divided the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas into the two separate dioceses of Reno and Las Vegas.

Thomas, 73, is the third bishop of Las Vegas. He was consecrated as a bishop in 2000 and spent four years as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle before John Paul II appointed him bishop of Helena, where he ordained Father Stu Long to the priesthood.

Originally from Montana, Thomas wrote a doctoral dissertation on “Catholics and the Missions of the Pacific Northwest” while completing his Ph.D. at the University of Washington. He also received a master’s degree in counseling and community mental health after being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1976.

The Catholic Church in the United States now has 35 metropolitan archdioceses, including two Eastern-rite metropolitan archeparchies.

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