Las Vegas Becomes First New Roman Catholic Archdiocese in the U.S. in 19 Years
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In a surprising development, the city known for its association with gambling and secular indulgence, Las Vegas, has been designated as the newest Roman Catholic Archdiocese in the United States. The Vatican's announcement on May 30 declared the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas, which includes the newly elevated Archdiocese of Las Vegas, along with the suffragan Dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City.
Las Vegas is also home to a diverse community of millions of Catholics.
Archbishop George Leo Thomas, appointed by Pope Francis as the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Las Vegas, expressed his excitement about the recognition, emphasizing that it signifies the growth and vibrancy of the local faith community. He viewed this development as a remarkable legacy moment not only for Las Vegas but also for the Catholic Church as a whole.
The Diocese of Las Vegas was initially established in 1995 when the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas was divided into two separate entities, serving the northern and southern parts of Nevada respectively. At its inception, the Diocese of Las Vegas had a Catholic population of 250,000, which has since more than doubled. Today, the newly formed Archdiocese of Las Vegas covers 39,088 square miles and has a total population of 2,322,280, with approximately 620,000 identifying as Catholic.
Archbishop Thomas highlighted the archdiocese's diverse and growing Catholic community, comprising 58 language groups. Notably, the presence of large Filipino and Caucasian communities contributes to the cultural richness of the archdiocese. Additionally, an influx of around 50,000 Californian residents annually has contributed to the population growth. However, Archbishop Thomas attributed the growth and vitality of the archdiocese to the dedicated priests and lay faithful who actively contribute to pastoral care and community outreach.
The decision to elevate the Diocese of Las Vegas to an archdiocese and establish the Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas was influenced by various factors. The spiritual growth of the region, including increased baptisms, a rise in vocations, and the construction of new parishes, played a significant role in this decision. The Vatican evaluates specific criteria, such as size and population, when determining the elevation of a diocese to an archdiocese or ecclesiastical province.
As the newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishop, Thomas will receive the palliumâ€"a symbol of his authorityâ€"from Pope Francis on June 29 in Rome, coinciding with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Subsequently, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, will visit the archdiocese in October to formally invest Thomas with the pallium.
Archbishop George Leo Thomas expressed deep gratitude and humility for this significant recognition by Pope Francis. The establishment of the Archdiocese of Las Vegas is seen as a testament to the remarkable growth, spiritual development, and dedication of the Catholic community in Las Vegas, symbolizing a momentous occasion for both the city and the Catholic Church in the United States.
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