The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas introduced its new bishop Wednesday — George Leo Thomas.
Bishop Joseph A. Pepe is retiring after 17 years and the Vatican officially announced the change Wednesday.
Bishop George Leo Thomas, 67, is the new leader of more than 750,000 Catholics in Las Vegas. 8 News NOW spoke with him about his new role and his take on issues — some of which are controversial.
“I’ve been bishop of the church in Helena, Montana for the last 14 years. Now it’s a very different experience. We have more cows than catholics,” Bishop George Leo Thomas said.
It’s a new beginning for the catholic community as he takes over diocese duties. Bishop Joseph Pepe is retiring after serving 17 years, a colleague and close friend to Bishop Thomas.
“I was told there would be a new bishop for Las Vegas and when I heard his name I said wow somebody I know very well,” Bishop Joseph Pepe said.
Adding he’s passing the leadership role to someone he believes has the open mind needed to lead the church.
As Bishop Thomas admits, he’s coming in with an open heart.
“It’s going to be a great adventure. I come here with a heart full of love. A heart that is very enthusiastic about the church. I’ve been a priest for 41 years and a bishop for 18 years.”
Bishop Thomas brings expertise in psychology, mental health issues, mission work and prison ministry. He says, one of his top goals is to address and discuss the issues important to catholics.
“I am very aware of immigration reform in the United States at the national bishops’ conference a few months ago I spoke publicly on my commitment to DACA and the dreamers and I issued public statements.”
As the nation remains divided on issues like gun control, the bishop says he’s ready to get the congregation involved in the national conversation.
“I also believe because of the high school students in Florida there is a momentum building from the grass roots that’s really from the words of youth regarding a whole question around army’s and ammunition and gun control and I think we have to actually reframe that conversation.”
Bishop Thomas will become the third bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas once he is installed on May 15.