Pope Francis on Friday named San Diego Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan to lead the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona.

Dolan, 60, succeeds Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, whose resignation was accepted on June 10, after turning 75, the usual age of retirement for bishops.

Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the U.S. and the diocese serves 1.2 million Catholics. Bishop Dolan will begin his assignment in early August.

Dolan, a strong Spanish-speaker, has been an auxiliary bishop in San Diego, a diocese of almost 1.4 million Catholics, since 2017, serving under Cardinal-designate Robert McElroy.

Dolan grew up in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego as one of nine children. He was ordained a priest of the diocese in 1989. He was a parish priest for 27 years before he was appointed as auxiliary bishop.

He has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia. As vicar for clergy, he also assisted McElroy in the assignment of priests in San Diego’s 98 parishes.

“I cannot begin to express my thanks to God for his goodness to me throughout my life and I enter this new chapter with a renewed commitment to love and serve the Lord and His Church with my whole heart, soul, and strength,” Bishop Dolan said in a June 10 press release.

The Phoenix bishop-elect was also known in San Diego for his support of refugees, in particular the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of more than 20,000 boys from the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were orphaned or left home during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

After his appointment as an auxiliary bishop in 2017, Dolan was hailed as an “LGBT-positive priest” by New Ways Ministry, a Catholic LGBT outreach group without approval or recognition from the Catholic Church.

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Dolan was the pastor of St. John the Evangelist parish in the Hillcrest neighborhood, which, according to New Ways Ministry, is “where many of San Diego’s LGBT residents live.”

Dolan described his time at the parish as “an eye-opening experience, but also a joyful experience.”

In January 2021, he was one of 14 US bishops who signed a statement on protecting LGBT youth from bullying, called “God is on your side.”

Cardinal-designate McElroy said on June 10 that Dolan “is a man of deep faith, pastoral wisdom and enormous energy. In addition, there is a profound joy in his soul that reflects the grace of God and the wonderful love of his parents and family.”

“Bishop Dolan has been the pastor of six very diverse parishes within the Diocese of San Diego, and to each he has brought leadership, prayerfulness, collaboration, creativity and unity,” McElroy added.

This story was updated at 9:40 am MDT with information from a Diocese of Phoenix press release.

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