Cardinal-designate Gerald Lacroix
ROME – The archbishop of Quebec will join 18 other prelates, many from the developing world, in being inducted into the College of Cardinals Feb. 22.
"It was a complete shock, to tell you the truth," Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix told a Quebec City news conference Jan. 13.
Lacroix said he knew he could receive the cardinal's red hat someday since Quebec is Canada's primatial diocese, but at age 56 and archbishop for only three years, he was not expected to receive it so soon.
Pope Francis announced the nominations Jan. 12 after praying the Angelus.
Although cardinals are traditionally known as "princes of the Church," the pope, who has pointedly refused many of the trappings of his office, characteristically dismissed any element of pomp in the distinction he had decided to bestow.
Pope Francis instructed the cardinals-designate to "receive this new designation with a simple and humble heart."
"And while you should do so with joy and happiness, do it in a way that this feeling may be far from any expression of worldliness, or any form of celebration alien to the evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety and poverty."
Pope Francis names 19 new cardinals
Here is the list of the new cardinals named by Pope Francis Jan. 12:
In a letter to the new cardinals, released by the Vatican Jan. 13, the pope wrote that a red hat "does not signify a promotion, an honour or a decoration; it is simply a form of service that requires expanding your vision and enlarging your heart."
Lacroix is the only North American who will receive the red hat in February.
Some observers had predicted that Pope Francis would use his first selections to make major changes in the composition of the cardinal electors, perhaps by boosting the presence of residential bishops from the global South and reducing that of Vatican officials or prelates from rich Western countries.
Yet Pope Francis did not substantially reduce the representation of those groups with a traditionally strong presence.
Half of the new cardinal electors hail from statistically underrepresented regions in the southern hemisphere, including three of the world's poorest countries: Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Haiti.
Five of the new electors are from Latin America, an increase by one-third of the current number from the region. Latin America, home to about 40 per cent of the world's Catholics, will account for about 16 per cent of the group eligible to choose the next pope.
Four new cardinal electors are from Italy, leaving that nation's share practically unchanged at nearly a quarter.
However, the pope passed over the archbishop of Venice and the archbishop of Turin, both dioceses that traditionally come with a red hat, while giving one to the archbishop of Perugia, a diocese that has not had a cardinal appointed since 1846.
Four new cardinal electors are Vatican officials. Such officials will continue to make up slightly more than a third of the cardinal electors.
Three of the new cardinals are already over the age of 80 and, therefore, ineligible to vote in a conclave. The pope uses such nominations to honour churchmen for their scholarship or other service to the Church.
In this case, Pope Francis honoured Archbishop Loris Capovilla, 98, who served as personal secretary to Blessed John XXIII, Spanish Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, 84, of Pamplona and Santa Lucian Archbishop Kelvin Felix, 80, of Castries.
Lacroix replaced Cardinal Marc Ouellet as Quebec archbishop and primate of Canada in early 2011.
The cardinal-designate said he accepted the pope's choice as a "great sign of the closeness of the pope and the universal Church" as Quebec marks the 350th anniversary of the founding of the first parish in North America.
The pope knows Quebec and knows she is in need of encouragement, he said.
Quebec is undergoing an "earthquake," seen in family breakdown, individualism and a lack of respect for life, Lacroix said, noting the province "with so many resources is on the verge of legalizing euthanasia."
Born in 1957 in the small village of Saint-Hilaire de Dorset, in Quebec's Beauce Region, Lacroix spent his teen years in Manchester, N.H., an industrial city where his family had moved to seek employment.
He returned to Quebec as he reached adulthood where he studied for the priesthood. He obtained a master's degree in pastoral theology at Laval University before being ordained in 1988.
Lacroix spent nine years doing missionary work in Colombia after his ordination.
Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), said Lacroix's nomination indicated "the importance of the See of Québec and the important role it played in evangelizing the New World."
With Lacroix, Canada now has four cardinals, including Ouellet, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop-emeritus of Montreal.
(This story was based on reports by Deborah Gyapong of Canadian Catholic News in Ottawa and Francis Rocca of Catholic News Service at the Vatican.)