The Defense of Marriage
Bishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone was born in San Diego, California, on June 5, 1956, the second of Leon and Mary Cordileone’s two sons and third of their four children. Following Sicilian tradition, his name reflects his family. His paternal grandfather was a fisherman in Sicily; his maternal grandfather, Salvatore, came from a farming family in Sicily; and his paternal uncle Joseph was killed in World War II.
Bishop Cordileone’s father Leon was born in San Francisco and the family moved to San Diego when he was four years old. He worked with his three brothers in the family commercial fishing business and later bought his own albacore fishing boat. He also served in the Navy during the Second World War.
His mother Mary was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, the oldest of four sisters. She came to San Diego in March of 1947, and the rest of her family moved there in October of the same year. His parents met in San Diego and married on November 13, 1949.
The family grew up in Blessed Sacrament Parish in San Diego. Cordileone attended public grammar and high school and was an active participant in parish after-school religion classes and his high school music program, playing in the concert band, marching band and stage band.
In December of 1974, during his first year of college and with encouragement from a young parish priest he respected, Cordileone attended a seminary vocation retreat. It was during this first year at San Diego State that Cordileone discerned his call to the Priesthood and entered St. Francis Seminary, transferring as a sophomore to the University of San Diego.
Cordileone graduated three years later in 1978 with a B.A. in Philosophy. He was accepted to study in Rome and continued in the seminary at the Pontifical North American College. He received the Bachelors Degree in Sacred Theology in 1981 from the Pontifical Gregorian University and then chose to return to be ordained a priest in San Diego and begin his first pastoral assignment.
On July 9, 1982, Bishop Leo T. Maher ordained the Reverend Salvatore Cordileone. Soon thereafter he took up his assignment as associate pastor at St. Martin of Tours Parish in La Mesa, where he remained for three years. In 1985 he was again sent to Rome, this time to study the new Code of Canon Law. He spent the next four years again at the Gregorian University, completing his doctorate. Upon Father Cordileone’s return to San Diego in 1989, he became secretary to Coadjutor Bishop Robert Brom and a year later became adjutant judicial vicar. Pastoral work called to him again in 1991 and Father Cordileone accepted appointment as pastor of Calexico’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, four blocks from the Mexican border.
In 1995 he was called to Rome and for the next seven years served as assistant at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest canonical court. On July 5, 2002 Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego and he was ordained bishop on August 21, 2002 by Bishop Brom. In addition to serving on the various consultative bodies of the Diocese during his years as auxiliary of San Diego, Bishop Cordileone also chaired the Corporate Board of Catholic Charities and was a member of the University of San Diego Board of Trustees, serving on its Academic Affairs and Mission and Vision Committees.
On March 23, 2009 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Cordileone to be Fourth Bishop of Oakland. His Mass of Installation in the Diocese of Oakland was celebrated on May 5, 2009 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Bishop Cordileone presently sits on the Committee for Canonical Affairs and Church Governance of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as well as on its Task Force on Cultural Diversity. He also serves on the Religious Liberties Committee of the California Catholic Conference.
Bishop Cordileone’s avocations include a life-long interest in jazz music. Even during his seminary studies in Rome he played his alto saxophone in a jazz quintet, and continues to follow the music. He also enjoys swimming and spectator sports, especially professional baseball and football. He has not, however, declared his regional team preferences.