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Viva Arch Vegas? Vatican to consider Nevada archdiocese

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 Vatican will consider a plan to elevate the Diocese of Las Vegas to a metropolitan see, after U.S. bishops were consulted on the plan during their fall plenary meeting in Baltimore.

The plan would see Las Vegas become an archdiocese, with the Dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City as suffragan dioceses, sources close to the U.S. bishops’ conference told The Pillar.

After consultation on the idea during an executive session of the USCCB this week, the proposal will be considered by the Congregation for Bishops in the Vatican curia, before a final decision from Pope Francis, sources added.

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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 not does not formally oversee their bishops.

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.

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

The Las Vegas diocese referred The Pillar to the USCCB in response to questions.

Chieko Noguchi, spokeswoman for the USCCB, declined to comment.

The move was not the only prospective change that bishops had been scheduled to discuss at the Nov. 14-17 Baltimore meeting.

Last month, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton announced that bishops would be consulted on a plan to see the Diocese of Steubenville face an extinctive merger with the neighboring Diocese of Columbus. But after weeks of pushback from Steubenville priests, who were not consulted on the plan before it was announced, Monforton requested that the proposal be removed from the USCCB’s agenda.

Some observers have predicted that population shifts and increasing secularization will see a spate of extinctive diocesan mergers in the years to come, along with the approval of several western dioceses as metropolitan sees.

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