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The Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada was elevated Tuesday to become a metropolitan see, with the Dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City as suffragan dioceses.

The move, which was first reported by The Pillar in November 2022, sees Las Vegas’ Bishop George Thomas become an archbishop.

It was discussed by U.S. bishops at their November 2022 plenary meeting, and then sent to the Dicastery for Bishops in the Vatican curia, before a final decision from Pope Francis.

Viva Arch Vegas? Vatican to consider Nevada archdiocese
The interior of Guardian Angel Cathedral in Las Vegas. Credit: Farragutful/wikimedia. CC BY SA 4.0

The archdiocese of Las Vegas, along with the dioceses of Reno, and Salt Lake City were previously part of the metropolitan province of San Francisco, which includes also dioceses in northern and central California, along with the Hawaiian Diocese of Honolulu.

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The Las Vegas diocese was erected in 1995, when its territory in southern Nevada was carved from the Diocese of Reno. In 2020, the diocese had at least 600,000 Catholics, constituting nearly 30% of the region’s population.

More than 2.3 million people live in the Las Vegas Valley, more than triple the area’s population in 1990, shortly before the diocese was founded. After a period of explosive population growth between 1990 and 2010, growth in the region has slowed considerably. But experts predict the area will grow by more than 1 million people by 2060.

Population growth in northern Nevada's Diocese of Reno, and in Utah - covered by the Diocese of Salt Lake City - is also expected to continue.

In Catholic law and theology, dioceses are particular churches — both legal and theological realities, in which “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative.”

Dioceses are organized into metropolitan provinces, constituted by an archdiocese and several “suffragan” dioceses. The metropolitan archbishop has ceremonial precedence in his province, and responsibility for coordinating collaboration between the provincial dioceses, but he does not formally oversee their bishops.

Metropolitan archbishops wear a liturgical garment called a pallium, which is given to them by the pope, and signifies communion with the pontiff.

The pallium of Pope St. John XXIII which is the current design, displayed in the museum of the Archdiocese of Gniezno. Credit: Piotrus/wikimedia. CC BY SA 3.0

In recent years, the Holy See has promulgated policies which give the metropolitan archbishop a key role in investigating allegations of abuse or negligence in office by diocesan bishops. The metropolitan can also oversee a common legislative session for all provincial dioceses called a provincial council — but such councils are rarely held in the U.S. or most other western countries.

With the addition of the Archdiocese of Las Vegas, there are now 33 Latin Catholic metropolitan sees in the U.S. bishops’ conference.

The announcement of the Las Vegas archdiocese’s elevation came one day after the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights punched their ticket to the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals, with a 6-0 Game 6 win over the (Diocese of) Dallas Stars in the Western Conference finals.

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