Robert McElroy

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy Installed as Cardinal by Pope Francis

McElroy, 68, is the first bishop from San Diego to take on the role of cardinal, the Catholic Church’s second highest role in its hierarchy

NBC Universal, Inc.

In a Saturday afternoon ceremony at the steps of the Altar of the Confession inside Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, Bishop Robert McElroy, alongside 19 other Bishops and Archbishops from around the world, were installed as Cardinals, new advisors to Pope Francis.

The ceremony, led by Pope Francis, was met with crowds of faithful and tourists alike.

McElroy has been an outspoken ally of Francis’ pastoral approach to issues such as the protection of the environment and a more welcoming approach to gay Catholics.

Pope Francis’ decision to elect McElroy, however, came as a surprise to some San Diego faithful, as well as McElroy himself, with Francis seemingly overlooking conservative archbishops in the larger cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The decision, however, is significant, as McElroy shares many ideologies and viewpoints as Francis.

With this appointment cycle, Francis has also continued to repeat his pattern of appointing Cardinal designates, who had limited recognition on the global Catholic stage, and appointing others as he factors into the demographic realities of Catholicism in the current time.

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 will begin Monday as he meets with the other 225 Cardinals, representing 85 countries.

Another important role McElroy among others will take on with this appointment, will be to eventually select a new Pope.

When necessary, Cardinal electors - Cardinals who are under the age of 80 as required by Canon law, will meet during a consistory and will be responsible for selecting the Church’s new leader.

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

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