Hundreds Welcome New Bishop to Diocese of San Bernardino With Special Mass

Bishop Alberto Rojas displays the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis during a Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church on Feb. 24, 2020, in Chino Hills, California. Francis appointed Rojas as the new coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino. Photo courtesy of Diocese of San Bernardino

CHINO HILLS, Calif. (RNS) — Hundreds of people gathered Monday (Feb. 24) at St. Paul the Apostle Church for a Mass that welcomed Bishop Alberto Rojas — who was named to lead the Diocese of San Bernardino, one of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic dioceses.

Pope Francis appointed Rojas, a former auxiliary bishop in Chicago, to be coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino. As coadjutor, Rojas will assist Bishop Gerald Barnes — who has led the the diocese for more than two decades — in administering the diocese in the months leading to his June 2021 retirement.

The estimated three-hour service was held in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Igbo. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States; Archbishop José Gómez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Cardinal Roger Mahony; and visiting priests and parishioners from Chicago and Mexico were among those in attendance.

The church appeared to be at capacity, with parishioners filling the halls of the service as well as a separate room where a video of the Mass was broadcast.

During Mass, Pierre read the apostolic mandate from Francis that declared Rojas as the coadjutor of the San Bernardino Diocese. Worshippers stood in applause as Rojas walked the room while displaying the pope’s mandate.

People of First Nations, Latino, African and African American, Asian and Pacific Islander and European descent each walked up to the altar to welcome Rojas.

In his homily, Rojas — who was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico — preached in English and Spanish about the dangers of division.

He recalled a recent meeting with Pope Francis where he asked the pope about his greatest fears. “With no hesitation, he said it right away: ‘division,’” Rojas said.

Rojas spoke of division among bishops, priests, cultures, children and parents. “Division comes from the devil and unity comes from God,” said Rojas, reciting the pope’s words.

Citing Scripture, he said it’s necessary to “acquire the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of the world.”

“That is our challenge, as missionary disciples, to help the world to distinguish good from bad, good religion from bad religion,” he said.

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Source: Religion News Service