Auxiliary Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Francisco has been named to head the Diocese of San Diego by Pope Francis. The appointment was announced in Washington March 3 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop McElroy, 61, is a native of San Francisco who has spent most of his life in the Bay Area. He has been an auxiliary bishop since 2010. He will be installed as the sixth bishop of San Diego during an April 15 Mass at St. Therese of Carmel Church. He succeeds Bishop Cirilo B. Flores, who died Sept. 6, 2014.
Bishop Flores was a former priest and, later, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange.
“Bishop McElroy is exemplary in his outreach to many groups and communities in the archdiocese and we are all grateful for his wise advice and guidance to people and parishes in the archdiocese,” said a statement from San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone.
He said San Diego’s location as a major metropolis on the U.S.-Mexico border across from another major metropolis, Tijuana, “presents distinctive challenges
and opportunities.” Bishop McElroy’s “proven track record of outreach to the poor and marginalized, along with his ability to understand and articulate the complexities involved,” Archbishop Cordileone said, “will serve him well in responding to Catholics of the Diocese of San Diego, as he builds upon the many graces they have received from God and helps Catholics confront their needs with hope and confidence in the Lord.”
In a statement about his appointment, Bishop McElroy said there are no words “to describe the tremendous joy and gratitude to God which I feel at this moment.”
“When I was growing up, my family would come to San Diego for our summer vacation, and I was captivated by the beauty and vitality of this graced region,” he said in a statement. “During my years as a priest and bishop, I have continually been struck by this same beauty and vitality in the life of the local church —
proclaiming the Gospel, embracing the poor and the marginalized, strengthening family life, forging unity in faith and solidarity amid great cultural diversity.
“Now I have the privilege of becoming a member and a leader in this magnificent Catholic community and the society which surrounds it.”
At a news conference in San Diego, Bishop McElroy said he planned to spend his initial months mostly learning about the diocese and listening to
Catholics. A Spanish speaker, he said that being close to the U.S.-Mexico border is a reminder of how vital immigration is to the United States and “that we sometimes fall short … in how we deal with immigrants.”
“We must really confront the issues of immigration and resolve them with justice,” he said, calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
When he was named an auxiliary for San Francisco, Bishop McElroy had been pastor of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo for 14 years. Before that
he was vicar general for the San Francisco Archdiocese, from 1995 to 1997. He was named a monsignor in 1996.
He is author of “The Search for an American Public Theology: The Contribution of John Courtney Murray,” (Paulist Press, 1989); and “Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs,” (Princeton University Press, 1992). He also has been publishedin journals and America magazine, a
weekly Jesuit publication.
Robert Walter McElroy was born Feb. 5, 1954, in San Francisco. He grew up in San Mateo County. His family resided in Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Daly City and Our Lady of Angels Parish in Burlingame.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1975, a master’s degree in American history from Stanford University in 1976, and a master
of divinity degree from St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park in 1979.
He was ordained a priest for San Francisco April 12, 1980, at St. Mary’s Cathedral by Archbishop John R. Quinn. As a young priest, he was parochial vicar at St. Cecilia Parish in San Francisco and at St. Pius in Redwood City. He was secretary to Archbishop
Quinn from 1982 to 1985. He studied for a licentiate in sacred theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley in 1985 and for a doctorate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from 1985 to 1986. He studied for a doctorate in history at Stanford from 1986 to 1989.
The San Diego diocese covers more than 8,800 square miles. Out of a total population of about 3.2 million people, just under 1 million, or 31percent, are Catholic.