Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 | 9:27 a.m.
The Catholic church has a new leader in Southern Nevada.
Pope Francis named Bishop George Leo Thomas as the new bishop of Las Vegas, replacing Bishop Joseph Pepe, who is retiring after 17 years, the diocese announced today.
Thomas, who has spent the past 14 years as the bishop in Helena, Mont., will be installed May 15 in Las Vegas.
“It is difficult to leave Montana,” Thomas said in a statement. “But Pope Francis requests that each bishop possess a generous missionary spirit. In light of the Holy Father’s request and with humble thanks for the confidence he places in me, I joyfully accept this appointment.”
Thomas is a graduate of Carroll College in Helena. He holds two master's degrees and a PhD from the University of Washington.
In Washington, he chaired the Catholic Charities of Seattle and the Archdiocesan Housing Authority, and he was the night chaplain for King County Jail for 13 years.
While in Helena, he dedicated three new churches, ordained 18 permanent deacons and 14 priests.
He is bilingual in Spanish and is credited with bringing visibility to the Guatemala Mission and its Clinica Maxeña and Asunción School, which is sponsored by the Helena diocese.
There are nearly 750,000 Catholics in Southern Nevada, which is 15 times more than in the diocese in Helena, according to the statement.