Archdiocese of San Francisco mourns loss of Auxiliary Bishop Robert F. Christian; Bishop Soto offers condolences

Bishop Jaime Soto has offered the following comments on the death of Bishop Robert Christian, auxiliary bishop of San Francisco and rector-president of St. Patrick's Seminary & University:

"We have lost a good pastor and brother. The sudden death of Bishop Christian is heartbreaking for all the Catholic community in California. Having only served as bishop for a short while, Bishop Christian quickly became a respected collaborator and companion for many. I will miss his sensible wisdom and good humor. I ask my brother priests and deacons as well as all the faithful in the Diocese of Sacramento to join me in praying for his eternal rest. May the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary bring to the clergy and people of the Archdiocese of San Francisco the tender mercy of her son, Jesus."

Following is the story from Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Thirteen months after his installation, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Christian, OP, passed away in his sleep at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park. Bishop Christian, the seminary’s rector-president, was 70 years old. 

The funeral Mass for Bishop Christian will be celebrated on Tuesday, July 23, at 10 a.m. in St. Mary's Cathedral, located at 1111 Gough St. in San Francisco. Visitation will be held on Monday, July 22, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Dominic Church, located at 2390 Bush St. in Sacramento, with the vigil service following at 7 p.m. Burial will follow at a later date in St. Dominic Cemetery in Benicia.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said “I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the passing of Bishop Christian. The Archdiocese was greatly blessed to have his wisdom and leadership even if for so brief a time as auxiliary bishop and even briefer time as rector of the Seminary.  We join with the Dominican community in praying for the repose of his soul and for peace and comfort for his wonderful family in their time of mourning.”

Jesuit Father John Piderit, the archdiocesan vicar for administration and moderator of the curia, said Bishop Christian's death is "a great loss" and asked people to pray for him. "He was a wonderful priest, bishop, teacher, administrator and spiritual guide,” he said.

Bishop Christian was installed as the 18th auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of San Francisco June 5, 2018. He had deep roots in San Francisco and the Bay Area, attending St. Brendan School and later St. Vincent de Paul School and St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco. He graduated from Santa Clara University and afterwards entered the Dominican order in Oakland. 

Bishop Christian was ordained to the priesthood in 1976, and received his doctorate in theology in 1984. Over the course of 35 years, he held teaching and administrative positions at Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) and served on ecumenical commissions. 

In Oakland, Bishop Christian served in the Western Dominican Province's leadership and was the master of students at St. Albert’s Priory at the time of his appointment as a bishop. He was appointed to lead St. Patrick’s Seminary & University January 14, 2019.

Bishop Christian chose as his episcopal motto “Sanctificetur nomen tuum – Hallowed be thy name."

"It lets people know that I’ll continue to preach the name of Jesus, who teaches me to be grateful for all that I have, including a good family, many friends, an education, my Dominican life and travels all over the world," he said before his ordination. "God is the giver of all good gifts and has given me the opportunity to be something of a gift to others.”

The Western Dominican Province in a statement said “Bishop Christian has tirelessly served the Church and faithful for nearly 50 years. We are deeply saddened to hear of his death and entrust his soul to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. We ask for your prayers for the repose of his soul, as well as for his grieving family, friends and Dominican brothers around the world.”