Dallas - There’s rejoicing among North Texas Catholics Sunday -- just days after Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell left to Rome for a Vatican appointment.
Pope Francis announced Farrell is among 17 bishops named cardinals. Farrell headed the Dallas Diocese for 10 years. He’s one of three Americans to be appointed.
“Shocked, he said he was shocked the pope would make this announcement this morning,” said Annette Gonzales Taylor, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Dallas.
Farrell flew to Rome on Thursday, but had already started the transition of running a newly-created Vatican family and laity department.
Dallas Diocese insiders say the promotion typically happens a year into an appointment. They say it could have major implications for North Texas and the country.
“He never in his wildest dreams expected the pope today to name him as a cardinal,” says Gonzales Taylor.
Bishop Farrell sent this message to North Texas from Rome:
"I am humbled by the news this morning that our Holy Father Pope Francis has named me to the College of Cardinals. I ask all in the Diocese of Dallas to please pray for me that I may to the best of my ability fulfill this sacred duty to our Church."
In his decade leading North Texas Catholics, they've gone from about 950,000 to 1.3 million -- much of that growth in Collin County.
Bishop Farrell has been outspoken in his tenure, notably reaching out to the family of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan and becoming a prominent figure at pro-life marches.
“From the beginning, I quickly grew to love the beautiful people and culture here. The strong faith, kindness and generosity of the people in the Diocese of Dallas surpassed all of my expectations,” said Farrell in August.
Bishop Greg Kelly will lead the Diocese of Dallas until the pope can select a replacement for Farrell.