Las Vegas' new Bishop is installed

Bishop Thomas (Jeff Gillan | KSNV)

Two-thousand local Catholics packed the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer to watch George Thomas, formerly the Bishop of Helena, Montana, become the third bishop in the history of the young Diocese of Las Vegas.

“We appoint you Bishop of Las Vegas,” said the Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, the Pope’s representative.

He then handed Rome’s official letter to Thomas, who walked out among the congregation, showing it to the assembled crowd.

Thomas takes over from the retiring Bishop Joseph Pepe, who led local Catholics since 2001.

“We’re looking forward to a great bishop - for him being a great bishop,” said Parishioner Theresa Garcia, sitting in a crowded pew.

Thomas takes over a growing Diocese spanning five counties and 40,000 square miles. There are roughly 750,000 local Catholics in Southern Nevada, according to the Diocese, of whom 60 percent are Hispanic.

Thomas was not available to the media today. When he was named new Bishop in February, News 3 asked him what his priorities would be.

“Making sure the church is present, is present to the immigrants and to the Dreamers, certainly, will be a very large ticket item for me,” Thomas said at the time.

In his homily Tuesday, Thomas drew on the reform spirit of previous popes, most notably the church’s current leader, Pope Francis.

“It is my hope that our own Diocese of Las Vegas - that same Pentecostal energy will move through the church like a new wind and fire,” Thomas said.

The Diocese has 32 churches.

At UNLV’s St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center, News 3 asked Father Daniel Rolland what his message is to the new Bishop.

“Welcome,” he said. “He says he’s very collaborative, so I think his first approach is getting to know and listen.”

“He will be able to bring a sense of community as our new shepherd and help us get quickly connected with him and with each other in a very beautiful way,” says Deacon Thomas Roberts, who leads Catholic Charities and who took part in today’s installation.

Our gain is Helena, Montana’s loss, where Thomas was bishop for 14 years. At the Shrine on Tuesday was Dan Bartleson, who worked with Bishop Thomas at the Diocese of Helena. News 3 asked Bartleson what kind of bishop Las Vegas would be getting.

“I think you’re getting a bishop with a pastoral heart, and you will know him,” Bartleson says.

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