Courtney Mares of the Catholic News Agency writes that Pope Francis approved the creation of a new ecclesiastical province, covering Catholics living in Las Vegas, Reno, and Salt Lake City. Bishop George Leo Thomas will be the first archbishop of Las Vegas. Thomas previously served as the Bishop of Helena, Montana.
The creation of the Archdiocese comes as Las Vegas continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, with over 2 million people and 620,000 Catholics.
Las Vegas, which has had the notorious nickname “Sin City” since the 1930s, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.
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.