New San Francisco auxiliary bishop 'delighted' by appointment

By Elise Harris

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Opening Mass for the synod of bishops on the family Oct. 8, 2015. Credit: Mazue/catholicnews.org.uk.

On Wednesday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has named Fr. Robert F. Christian, O.P., a Dominican friar and a native of San Francisco, as the next auxiliary bishop for his home diocese in California.

In a statement coinciding with the March 28 announcement from the Vatican, San Francisco's Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, said he was “overjoyed to welcome Fr. Christian back to his native San Francisco.”

“We first met while studying in Rome some forty years ago and we are now all blessed that Bishop-Elect Christian joins us to serve our priests, religious, deacons and all the people of the Archdiocese.”

On his part, the bishop-elect said he is “delighted to minister in the area where I was born and raised, and where I have numerous relatives and friends. I know I can count on the prayers of many people, and I am eager to serve the people of the City and Archdiocese that I call home.”

Born in San Francisco in 1948, Christian attended Catholic school for the entirety of his school years, and graduated from Ignatius High School in 1965. Five years later, in 1970, he graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in literature.

Christian entered the Dominican novitiate in Oakland the same year, and continued his ecclesiastical, philosophical and theological studies at Saint Albert College and the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

He made his solemn vows in 1974 and began attending courses at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (the Angelicum) in Rome. He was ordained in 1976, and immediately began his teaching career at Dominican College in San Rafael.

After later receiving his doctorate in theology from the Angelicum, Christian began what would be a long teaching career at the university, lasting from 1985-1997.

The bishop-elect then made his way back to California, where he served in a variety of roles, including vicar and administrator of the Western Dominican Province, university professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and as a member of the Clergy Education Board for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Christian then held the role of deputy dean of the Angelicum from 1999-2014. After taking a year-long sabbatical, in 2015 he became master of students for the Western Dominican Province.

He was a “peritus,” or expert, at the Synod of Bishops on Priestly Formation in 1990, and is currently a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

In addition to English, he also speaks Italian, Spanish and French, and he knows Latin.

Bishop-elect Christian's episcopal ordination will likely take place at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco near the beginning of the summer.

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