WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph A. Pepe, 75, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada, and has named Bishop George L. Thomas as his successor, up until now the Bishop of Helena, Montana.
The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, February 28, 2018, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop George Thomas was born on May 19, 1950 in Anaconda, Montana. He received his B.A. degree in literature from Carroll College in 1972 and entered St. Thomas Seminary, in Bothell, Washington, as a student for the Archdiocese of Seattle, where he earned a master of divinity degree. In 1981, he entered graduate school at the University of Washington where he earned a master’s degree in counseling and community mental health (1983). In 1986 he earned a doctor of philosophy degree with an area of specialty in Pacific Northwest mission history.
He was ordained to the priesthood May 22, 1976, at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Parish assignments included: associate pastor at Holy Family Parish, Kirkland, and St. James Cathedral in Seattle; parish administrator at Sacred Heart Parish in Bellevue, and at Holy Innocents Mission in Duvall; Catholic chaplain to the King County Jail and Seattle City Jail for 12 years; chairman of the Board of Directors for Catholic Community Services for 10 years; and chaplain to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Seattle.
In 1987, he was appointed chancellor and vicar general, positions he held for 17 years. Following the death of Archbishop Thomas Murphy in 1997, Father Thomas was elected administrator for the Archdiocese of Seattle until the appointment of Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett, who re-appointed Father Thomas as vicar general.
George Thomas was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle by Pope John Paul II on Nov. 19, 1999 and was ordained Bishop on Jan. 28, 2000. He continued his service as Vicar General and as chairman of the Board of Directors for Catholic Community Services and the Archdiocesan Housing Authority. On March 23, 2004, he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Helena, and was installed at the Cathedral of St. Helena on June 4, 2004.
Joseph Anthony Pepe was born in Philadelphia on June 18, 1942. In 1960, he entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and received his Doctorate in Canon Law from Rome’s Pontifical University of Saint Thomas in 1976.
He was ordained a priest on May 16, 1970. Assignments after ordination included: Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Loreta Parish; faculty member at Cardinal O’Hara High School, Springfield; Defender of the Bond, Metropolitan Tribunal, Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1976, and Prosynodal Judge in 1977; ten years later, he was appointed Vice Chancellor and in 1990 was named Chancellor of the Archdiocese. During his tenure in the Chancery, he served as Vice Promoter for the Cause of Blessed Katharine Drexel. From 1982 through 1987, Father Pepe was a member of the faculty of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he taught Canon law.
In May 1991, Monsignor Pepe was named Honorary Prelate of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. Upon special request of the Archbishop of Santa Fe, Monsignor Pepe went to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 1993 to assist as Judicial Vicar. In 1998, he was appointed Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia, and Vicar for Priests for the Archdiocese.
He was named by Pope John Paul II as the second bishop of the Diocese of Las Vegas on April 6, 2001 and was ordained and installed on May 31, 2001.
Bishop Pepe is a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Hispanic Affairs. In addition, Bishop Pepe also serves on the following boards and committees: Board of Trustees for The Catholic University of America; member of the University’s Student Life Committee; board member of the International Dominican Foundation and Sanctuary of Culture Foundation; member of the Executive Committee of the Papal Foundation; member of Advisors for the Cause for the Beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen; and member of the Advisory Board for Priests for Life.
The Diocese of Las Vegas is comprised of 39,683 square miles in the state of Nevada and has a total population of 1.95 million of which 643,900 or 32 percent, are Catholic.