Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy has been appointed head of the Diocese of San Diego, one of the largest diocese in the United States. Archdiocese of San Francisco

One of the Catholic Church’s biggest vacancies in the United States has been filled. San Francisco auxiliary bishop Robert McElroy has been appointed head of the Diocese of San Diego, the Vatican confirmed Tuesday. The diocese is one of the largest in the U.S. with nearly 1 million Catholics.

McElroy will be installed April 15. He will succeed Bishop Cirilo Flores who died from cancer in September, less than a year after he was appointed. Both are considered moderates. McElroy has previously voiced his support for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion and shares Pope Francis' focus on poverty.

"Bishop McElroy is exemplary in his outreach to many groups and communities in the archdiocese and we are all grateful for his wise advice and guidance to people and parishes in the archdiocese," Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco said in a statement Tuesday congratulating McElroy on his appointment.

McElroy, 61, was born in San Francisco and raised in San Mateo County. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and master’s degree in history and political science from Stanford University. He also attended the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, and later earned doctorates in moral theology at the Gregorian University, the Associated Press reported.

He received his master’s in divinity from St. Patrick's Seminary and University in 1979 and became an ordained priest a year later. Before being named auxiliary bishop in 2010, he served for 14 years as pastor of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo.

Throughout his career McElroy has been an outspoken advocate for Catholic Charities, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States, and is a member of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“To have someone who is so progressive, so open, so in line with our new pope, nothing but good can come from this,” Francie Wright, principal of Holy Trinity Catholic School in El Cajon, California, told U-T San Diego. “We’ve taken our hits as a church, now it’s time to move forward.”