By Carlos Correa

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Many Catholics are celebrating the announcement of a new faith leader in the Central Valley.

Pope Francis has appointed a Sacramento bishop to the lead the Diocese of Stockton as the current bishop prepares for retirement.

It’s the announcement Bishop Stephen Blaire has been waiting to make since December 2016 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

“I am delighted that Bishop Myron Cotta has been selected to be my successor in the diocese,” said Blaire.

Highly recognized for his leadership, Pope Francis selected Cotta as the sixth bishop of the diocese of Stockton. He recently served as auxiliary bishop in Sacramento.

“It’s truly an honor to be called by God and by this ministry. It’s truly a ministry of service to the church and in particular to the Diocese of Stockton,” said Cotta.

Cotta was born of Portuguese heritage and calls the Central Valley home. He plans to spend his first year identifying some of the challenges within the diocese including immigration and Stockton’s violent crime.

“There is alternative to violence, and how is the church part of a healing agent in the midst of all of that for families and for their children, in the midst of all of this,” he said.

The Diocese of Stockton includes six counties with a diverse Catholic population of more than 300,000 people. Faith leaders hope the new bishop will focus on recruiting more seminarians.

“Currently, we only have two left, but I know there is a lot of young men thinking about priesthood so hopefully, with him now—and you know every bishop comes with new ideas new goals—so I don’t know we just have to wait and see what his plans are,” said Father Cesar Martinez, Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Cotta will be installed as bishop of the Diocese of Stockton on March 15, days before his 65th birthday.

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