BREAKING NEWS: Roman Catholic Bishop John Steinbock has died

FRESNO, Calif.

Bishop John Steinbock presided over the Valley's largest Christian denomination for nearly 20-years. He was the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fresno -- a diocese of more than half a million Catholics stretching from Merced County in the north to the Inyo town of Bishop on the east side of the Sierra.

The Bishop began his ministry as a 25-year-old priest in East L.A. In an interview with Action News in 2004, Bishop Steinbock said his assignment at the Cathedral of St. Vibiana on skid row was the most impacting of his life.

Bishop Steinbock: "I came to appreciate the simplicity of faith in people's lives... actually that God touched me in a way more than I touched people. That I tried to bring Christ to them... they brought Christ to me very much."

Even as he moved into his role as bishop in the Diocese of Fresno, Steinbock never lost sight of those in need. In 2006 he took a public stand against proposed immigration policies in congress that would have punished church leaders who helped illegal immigrants.

Bishop Steinbock: "We're a Christian nation supposedly... well if we don't love our neighbor as our self and respect the dignity of individual people then we are not being Christian whatsoever."

Over his years as spiritual leader of valley Catholics, the bishop met four different times with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. The Pilgrimage to Rome, called the "ad limina apostolorum" or "to the threshold of the apostles" is required by all bishops every five years.

In his last interview the Bishop reported his biggest challenge was finding space in older churches for the growing catholic population in the diocese. His cancer, he said, was a gift.

Bishop Steinbock: "I started thinking there's a lot of blessing too... having cancer. That may sound awful... I mean, first of all, so many people reached out to me expressing their live and their concern and their prayers for me... you don't realize how many lives you've touched until something like that happens."

Bishop Steinbock will never know just how many lives he touched -- among every denomination.

Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Office of Media Relations

All of us in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles extend our prayers and our sympathy to the people of the Diocese of Fresno upon the death of their beloved Bishop, Bishop John Steinbock.

Bishop Steinbock was a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, ordained in 1963. It was my privilege to be with him over the years at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo. Even then, his humility and goodness were cherished by all of us.

After serving in various assignments, he became the Pastor of St. Vibiana's Cathedral Parish in downtown Los Angeles where he labored for several years. He was a friend to the homeless and to street people; he began extensive visits to the small apartments in downtown Los Angeles visiting with joy the poor families living there and working in the area for minimum wage salaries. His personal impact in the poorer sections of downtown Los Angeles was grace-filled.

He learned Spanish in the seminary and truly loved working with the Spanish-speaking communities in all of his assignments.

In 1984 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange, where he served with great love and fidelity, admired by all of the people. In 1987 he was appointed Bishop of Santa Rosa where he gave pastoral leadership for four years.

In 1991 he was appointed Bishop of Fresno, and spent the past nineteen years serving this expansive population. Again, his Spanish language abilities helped him greatly in his pastoral care of the people of the great Central Valley.

While always very humble and unassuming, his demeanor became more active when he played sports. He was very good at basketball and handball, and after ordination, he loved playing golf regularly with various priest friends.

Bishop Steinbock was deeply in love with God, and spent significant time at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He frequently would give greetings such as "God is good," and he was always alert to knowing and following God's will.

The Church has lost a wonderful pastor, someone with the heart and goodness of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. May his example continue to inspire all of us to live out our discipleship with Jesus more fully, humbly, and lovingly.

Press Release

Bishop John T. Steinbock, Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, passed into eternal glory at 3:10 a.m. today. He was surrounded by family, his pastor, and friends. Diocesan funeral arrangements are in preparation. Once they are complete, they will be disseminated on our website, notices to parishes, and various other sources.

The Papal Nuncio has been notified of Bishop John's death. A report of Bishop John's death has also been circulated to His eminence Cardinal Roger Mahony and to the California Bishops.

We ask for prayers for the repose of the soul of Bishop John Steinbock.

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