San Diego

Cardinal McElroy Hosts First Mass in San Diego Since Installation

McElroy presided at Thursday's Mass of the Holy Spirit at the University of San Diego to kick off the school year at the Catholic university

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Just less than two weeks after San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy was installed as a new Cardinal by Pope Francis in the Vatican he has returned home to San Diego.

McElroy led his first public mass as a Cardinal in San Diego Thursday, at The Immaculata, on the University of San Diego campus.

It was McElroy's second public mass as a Cardinal, following his Mass of Thanksgiving he presided at in Saint Patrick's American Parish in Rome.

The annual "Mass of the Holy Spirit," put on by the campus ministry team, kicks off the school year for students and staff.

McElroy says he enjoys celebrating this mass each year, calling the mass a "wonderful moment," because he says, "a new group of students come to the university and they're filled with dreams and hopes and aspirations, and it's against this backdrop of the life of the university, that the spirit of god is with them accompanying them."

Before the mass, McElroy also spoke with reporters about his brief conversation with Pope Francis as he was installed as Cardinal. McElroy shared that after receiving his biretta and ring, Pope Francis asked him about his heart surgery last November.

McElroy said he jokingly told Pope Francis, "My heart is fine, but my knees aren't so good," explaining to reporters he had to kneel back down to hear Francis' question. Pope Francis wittingly replied, "Neither are mine," before the two shared a quick laugh.

Francis' decision to elect McElroy as a Cardinal still comes as a surprise to him, McElroy says, and comes as a surprise to some San Diego faithful.

The decision came across as Francis seemingly overlooking conservative archbishops, José Gomez and Salvatore Cordileone, from California's larger cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively.

The decision, however, is significant, as McElroy shares many ideologies and viewpoints as Francis, including the protection of the environment and a more welcoming approach to gay Catholics and the involvement of women in more roles throughout the Church.

This cycle, some of the new Cardinals installed will represent Nigeria, India, East Timor, Ghana, Singapore, Paraguay and Mongolia.

As McElroy adjusts to and learns of the new responsibilities in this role, one immediate task began just days after his installation, as he met with the other 225 Cardinals from around the world, representing 85 countries.

“The whole group of cardinals met for two days of meetings and that was a very good exchange… of views in different parts of the world and the situations we’re called to meet… so it was a great meeting for that," McElroy told reporters before Thursday's mass regarding the two-day consistory meeting of all the world's Cardinals, adding, "But it’s always good to be back here in San Diego.”

McElroy will continue to retain the title of Bishop and for the foreseeable future will continue to serve as the leader of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego, home to nearly 1.4 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.

Cardinal McElroy is the 16th cardinal from the United States, and the first from San Diego.

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