PHOENIX — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix introduced Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan from the Diocese of San Diego as its new spiritual leader Friday. Bishop Dolan will replace Bishop Thomas Olmsted who is retiring after 18 years. Bishop Olmsted is 75 years old, which is the age bishops are required to retire.
Bishop Dolan will inherit a growing church. The Phoenix diocese ministers to 1.1 million Catholics. That's an increase of more than 300,000 since 2012.
"My heart is filled with joy on this day as Pope Francis appoints me to serve as the Fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix," said Bishop Dolan. "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 will take on some of the challenges faced by Bishop Olmsted. Among them is making sure accusations of sexual abuse by priests are investigated. Bishop Dolan is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee for the protection of youth and young adults. Bishop Dolan says the Diocese of San Diego encourages priests and employees to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement.
"I think we will do our very best to make sure that, first of all, if there is ever any claim that we will vet that, not ourselves inwardly, but send the information to the powers that be in the civic arena."
Bishop Dolan's arrival to Phoenix is in marked contrast to Bishop Olmsted's. When Olmsted arrived in 2003 the diocese was in crisis. 51 Arizona priests were named in a report documenting alleged sexual abuse. In 2004, the man Olmsted replaced, Bishop Thomas O'Brien was found guilty in a hit and run accident in which a pedestrian was killed. Olmsted is credited with leading the Diocese through those difficult days. Bishop Dolan will be appointed as the Phoenix Diocese's 5th Bishop later this summer.