SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A little after 3 a.m. Sunday, San Diego’s Catholic Bishop, Robert McElroy woke up to numerous text messages causing his phone to go off.
“It said congratulations, congratulations, congratulations, and I thought to myself, "Congratulations on what?” he said.
McElroy was stunned to hear he was just appointed by Pope Francis to serve as a member of the College of Cardinals. Of the 21 newly appointed members, he's the only one from the United States.
“Not a clue that this was being contemplated or even possible,” said McElroy.
If a pope dies or resigns, the group is called into a conclave to elect a new pope.
McElroy said they also meet from time to time to advise the pope on various issues. He believes he was chosen for a couple of reasons.
“I believe the pope wanted to have a cardinal on the west coast,” he explained. “As you know this pope is very concerned about migrants and refugees, and we're on a diocese on the border.”
McElroy says Pope Francis has a series of initiatives he's trying to bring to the Catholic church, that McElroy has tried to plant in the Diocese of San Diego, focusing on inclusion and outreach to people alienated from the church in the past, and also handing the faith down to the next generation.
At a press conference Tuesday, McElroy also acknowledged the sexual abuse crisis and how it was handled for so long.
“We can't change it by putting it behind us, we need to always remember what happened and how we got into a very bad pattern,” he said. “The great problem within the church is when they got reassigned after it was known that they had abused, and that was a terrible, sinful pattern in the life of the church.”
He will officially become Cardinal McElroy on august 27th at a ceremony in Rome.