PROSPECT HEIGHTS — At a Mass celebrating Las Vegas becoming the 33rd U.S. archdiocese, Cardinal Christophe Pierre told those in attendance that the growth of Catholicism in Sin City is the outcome of synodality, that is, “women and men working together on the shared journey of faith.”
“Catholics in this local church are realizing the vision of the Second Vatican Council, not only that all of us are called to holiness, but that at all times clergy, religious and lay share responsibility for the mission of the gospel,” Cardinal Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, said at the Oct. 16 Mass.
“Today, because the laborers in that mission have been reaping the bountiful harvest, the time has come to recognize the fruit of this endeavor by making Las Vegas a Metropolitan See,” he continued.
First announced on May 30, the creation of the Ecclesiastical Province Las Vegas includes the newly elevated Archdiocese of Las Vegas as well as the suffragan Dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City. All were formerly a part of the Ecclesiastical Province of San Francisco.
Simultaneously, Pope Francis named Archbishop George Leo Thomas of Las Vegas the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Las Vegas. Archbishop Thomas received his pallium — a woolen vestment conferred by the pope on an archbishop — from Cardinal Pierre at the beginning of the Oct. 16 Mass after he gave opening remarks, and Cardinal Pierre gave his remarks and read the May 30 decree signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Archbishop Thomas then walked the decree around the church, garnering cheers and applause from the faithful.
Forty-three U.S. bishops attended the Mass, including Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop Salvatore Cardileone of San Francisco, former Las Vegas Bishops Daniel Walsh and Joseph Pepe, and the bishops of the new province, Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg of Reno and Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City.
Archbishop Thomas opened the Mass by noting that it was “a very historic day,” before welcoming the clergy, religious, and lay faithful in attendance. In a statement back when the archdiocese’s elevation was announced, he said it “speaks to the tremendous growth and vibrancy of the local faith.”
The Holy See created the Diocese of Las Vegas in 1995, when it divided the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas in two, supporting the northern and southern parts of the state respectively. At its inception, the Diocese of Las Vegas had a Catholic population of 250,000. That number has more than doubled since, which is a major reason it was elevated to an archdiocese.
Today, the Archdiocese of Las Vegas comprises 39,088 square miles in Nevada, and has a total population of 2,322,280, of which Thomas said approximately 650,000 are registered Catholics. The new archdiocese has a total of 67 priests and 30 parishes across the five counties it covers.
Citing the “dynamism and vitality” of the Catholic faith in the archdiocese, Cardinal Pierre — the celebrant of the Mass, his first in the U.S. as a cardinal — reminded those in attendance that their “fundamental mission as a church will not change” as a result of the elevation. That is, to preach the Gospel, be a witness to the Gospel, and to offer everyone, especially the poor and those who mourn, “the good news of salvation.”
“I hope that this elevation and the celebration that surrounds it … will prove to be a source of encouragement and renewal for the laborers in the field. Knowing that the Holy Father sees you and recognizes you is one way of remembering that God the Father always sees you, sees us, and wants you to delight in being his beloved children,” Cardinal Pierre said.
“Congratulations to Archbishop Thomas and Bishop Gordon,” Cardinal Pierre added. “Congratulations to all of the bishops, priests, and deacons, religious, and members of the lay faithful who have been a part of the life of the church.”