SAN DIEGO- The Vatican announced May 29 that Bishop Robert McElroy, bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, which includes the Imperial County, has been appointed by Pope Francis to the College of Cardinals.
Cardinal-designate McElroy will be installed by Pope Francis during a consistory to be held Aug. 27 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy. McElroy is the fifth American to be named a cardinal by Pope Francis, according to a press release.
The pope made the announcement at the end of his weekly Angelus prayers from the papal palace just after noon Rome time on May 29. All cardinals under 80 are voting members of the conclave, which would elect the next pope. McElroy is 68, according to the release.
“I am stunned and deeply surprised to learn that Pope Francis has appointed me to the College of Cardinals,” McElroy said in a statement. “My prayer is that in this ministry I may render additional service to the God who has honored me on so many levels in life.”
“And I also pray that I may help the Holy Father in his pastoral renewal of the Church,” he said.
Kevin Eckery, vice chancellor of the Diocese of San Diego and spokesman for the diocese, said McElroy being elected cardinal does not mean he is giving up his responsibilities as head of the Diocese of San Diego.
“He’s still going to be the bishop of San Diego and lead the Diocese of San Diego,” Eckery said. “What it means to become a cardinal is a host of things for the Church directly.”
Eckery said the “greatest responsibility” of any cardinal is “to be an elector for the new pope, if ever the office is open.”
Immediately following a 2020 consistory where Pope Francis named two new cardinals, Francis named 73 other members of the College of Cardinals eligible to vote for a future conclave, according to the Catholic News Agency (CNA). Pope Benedict XVI had named 39 of the cardinal electors and Pope Saint John Paul II had named 16.
Ahead of the next consistory, there are currently 117 electors, of whom 67 — or 52 percent — were nominated by Pope Francis, according to CNA.
“It represents a leading role in the global church,” Eckery said.
“It would not be surprising if (McElroy) had to travel more, and he could provide other forms of assistance to the Vatican and the Pope,” he said. “Not so long ago he was a delegate to the special synod on the Amazon, and it was an appointment by Pope Francis to be part of that process.”
“He may play a role occasionally if there are issues in the United States or North America where Pope Francis or the Vatican may want additional information or things like that,” Eckery said, “but from In a very real way, it will not change his responsibility and pastoral work for the Diocese of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Eckery said if McElroy could travel more as cardinal-designate, it would help that the Diocese of San Diego has “two absolutely terrific auxiliary bishops” namely Bishops John Dolan and Ramón Bejarano.
“They’re both smart men with a great sense of humor, so we’re very lucky to have them both,” Eckery said. “(McElroy) is lucky.”
“The opportunity to serve the Church and the diocese in this way is quite an honor,” Eckery said. “It’s a big problem.”
Cardinal-designate McElroy said he was grateful for the appointment.
“I give those who have made such profound contributions to my life and my priesthood: my family, the priests and nuns who have helped shape me,” McElroy said, “and the Catholic community in San Diego and Imperial counties, to whom it is my privilege to lead.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego serves more than 1.3 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties, which includes 98 parishes, 49 elementary and secondary schools, and various social service and family support organizations through agencies Catholic charities in the Diocese of San Diego across the region, according to the release.