Pope Francis has named Bishop Alberto Rojas, 54, of the Archdiocese of Chicago as the successor to Bishop Gerald Barnes who will submit his letter of resignation to the pope on his 75th birthday – June 22, 2020.
Roman Catholic bishops are required by church law to submit their letter of resignation on their 75th birthday.
Bishop Rojas, who was born in Mexico, was named a “coadjutor bishop” for the Diocese of San Bernardino, or one who comes to a diocese to assist the bishop for a period of months before succeeding him.
He will be the third bishop of the diocese, which serves Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The new bishop was introduced Dec. 2 during a morning news conference at the diocesan pastoral center in San Bernardino.
“I will bring with me my trust in God and a humility at the responsibility He has given me,” Bishop Rojas said. “I will have much to learn from the people of this Diocese and I pledge to open myself to what you have to share.”
Bishop Rojas, who spoke in Spanish and English during the press conference, said he identifies with the experience of his immigrant brothers and sisters because he too is an immigrant.
He said the diocese has a history of supporting immigrants and he looks forward to continuing that support by bringing solutions to the issues of immigration.
The bishop said his father worked in southern California for many years and he has a sister who lives in Los Angeles.
Bishop Barnes said it was a historic day in the life of the diocese, the nation’s fifth largest, covering 27,000 square miles with 1.7 million Catholics.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago said Bishop Rojas is beloved in Chicago and will be missed.
Bishop Rojas was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico and emigrated to the United States in 1994 to complete his seminary formation at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.
He was ordained a priest in 1997, working in parish ministry and then as a teacher at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary.
He was ordained a bishop in 2011 and has served on national committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops including Hispanic Affairs and Catholic Home Missions.
Most recently, he was lead bishop for Region VII of the V Encuentro, a reflection and dialogue of the U.S. Church on the growing prominence of Hispanics in the church.
Bishop Rojas returned to Chicago and will relocate to the Diocese of San Bernardino in February.