Bishop Alberto Rojas became the new leader of the Diocese of San Bernardino on December 28. The leadership change, in the nation’s fifth largest Catholic Diocese, was ushered in by Pope Francis’ acceptance of the retirement of Bishop Gerald Barnes announced by the Vatican the same day.
“Thank you for all you have shared with me," said Barnes in a recorded video message. "Thank you for your prayers, your support, the sharing of your gifts and for your constructive criticism.”
Barnes announced his retirement in August of 2019. After 25 years of service, he is the longest serving Bishop in a single diocese in the United States according to an official release.
Barnes received national recognition and praise for policies to prevent the sexual abuse of minors. In 2018, he made the move to release the names of 34 diocesan priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse since 1978.
Critics claimed that decision was about controlling the Church’s narrative rather than transparency, since it came during a year when the child sex abuse scandal was reignited by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that revealed widespread abuse and coverups by the Church.
More recently, Barnes supported census outreach and education, and as political tensions rose during the November presidential election, Barnes encouraged parishioners to vote and called for people to exhibit more civility and respect.
His successor, Rojas, arrived in San Bernardino in December 2019 to begin working alongside Barnes before the transition was official.
“As I begin my ministry, while continuing to listen and learn more about this large and diverse diocese, I would like to continue to build on the momentum that is clearly present here,” said Rojas in a video message.
Rojas came to the diocese from Chicago, where he was a bishop. The 54-year-old was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1994 to finish his schooling to become an ordained priest.
The diocese which serves the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino has 93 parishes and around 1.7 million Catholics.