Pope Francis erects Diocese of Nogales, Mexico, just south of U.S.

A welcome sign is seen on a road leading from Nogales, Ariz., into the Mexican state of Sonora in this 2014 photo. Pope Francis has erected the new Diocese of Nogales in Mexico, the Vatican announced March 19. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)
A welcome sign is seen on a road leading from Nogales, Ariz., into the Mexican state of Sonora in this 2014 photo. Pope Francis has erected the new Diocese of Nogales in Mexico, the Vatican announced March 19. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has erected a diocese in northern Mexico, located along the border of Arizona.

The Diocese of Nogales is in the northern part of Sonora state and includes territory from the Archdiocese of Hermosillo, Mexico, the Vatican announced March 19.

The pope appointed Bishop Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez Gonzalez, 60, to head the new diocese. He had been auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara.

The Catholic population of the new diocese totals 381,398 people and includes 25 parishes, 44 priests, 62 sisters and 13 seminarians, according to the Vatican announcement. The diocese is about 17,000 square miles in size.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., blesses people on the Mexican side as he distributes Communion through the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. in this April 2014 file photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., blesses people on the Mexican side as he distributes Communion through the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. in this April 2014 file photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Among the municipalities in the new diocese are Agua Prieta, Altar, Atil, Bacoachi, Caborca, Cananea, Fronteras, Imuris, Naco, Nacozari de Garcia, Nogales, Oquitoa, Pitiquito, Santa Cruz, Saric, Trincheras and Tubutama.

The Sonora-Arizona border is a desert area used by Mexicans to enter the United States seeking employment opportunities and a better life. Numerous church ministries and outreach programs serving the migrants exist in the region.