John Riley

HELENA — Roman Catholic Bishop George Thomas, a former bishop of the Helena Diocese, is being elevated to the first metropolitan archbishop of Las Vegas.

On Tuesday, May 30, 2023, Pope Francis announced the creation of a new ecclesiastical province in the United States by elevating Las Vegas to a metropolitan archdiocese.

Thomas has been serving as the bishop of the Las Vegas Diocese since 2018.

The new archdiocese will include the suffragan dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City.

Thomas was born in Anaconda on May 19, 1950, and raised in Butte. He graduated from Butte Central Catholic High School in 1968 and studied at Carroll College obtaining a bachelor's degree in Literature in 1972.

Prior to his Las Vegas appointment, Thomas severed as bishop of the Helena Diocese from 2004 to 2018.

During his tenure as Bishop of the Helena Diocese, he was named an honorary member of the Blackfeet Nation and served as chancellor of Carroll College.

As bishop, he ordained many priests including Father Stu.

Thomas also oversaw difficult times for the church when allegations of sexual abuse from the 1930s to the 1970s came to light.

At the time other Catholic Dioceses facing similar allegations chose to fight the allegations in court, but not Helena.

Thomas encouraged victims to come forward with the mindset of doing what was best for them.

“This had been a hidden problem. It has been put under the carpet for too long,” Thomas told MTN in a 2018 interview. “And in my opinion, the only way to deal with these kinds of things is to bring them to the light… Healing can only take place in the light and presence of truth.”

The Diocese of Helena would face 362 claims of sexual abuse and file for bankruptcy.

The diocese set up a $21 million fund for victims with an independent administrator assessing each case and determining compensation.