Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix
QUEBEC CITY — Quebec's new Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix did not get the usual telephone call from the nuncio when he was informed of the pope's appointment.
Instead Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana invited Lacroix to Ottawa to meet him.
"He didn't want to ask me over the phone," said Lacroix in an interview from Quebec City Feb. 22 when the pope's pick to replace Cardinal Marc Ouellet as Quebec's archbishop and primate of Canada was announced.
He and the nuncio "had a long chat" before he accepted. "The nuncio explained to me the Holy Father wanted someone who believed in the new evangelization and someone who is close to the people."
Lacroix said he was surprised he was chosen. At only 53, ordained by Ouellet as auxiliary bishop of Quebec only two years ago, he knew there were many other good candidates with "lots more experience."
"So I'm surprised, I'm humbled, and with joy I accept," Lacroix said.
"It is the Lord's will through the pope, through the consultation and the prayers of the people," he said, noting that he knows accepting God's will "is a source of joy," and has given him peace, "although it's a big responsibility."
Ouellet, who left Quebec in August to become prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the top three positions in the Vatican, would have played a significant role in advising Pope Benedict on Lacroix's selection.
Though the title primate of Canada is an honorific title that goes with North America's oldest See, Ouellet filled the role with a moral authority that spoke to the whole of Quebec and to the rest of Canada as well. Asked if he expected a mantle of national leadership to fall on him, Lacroix acknowledged "there will be some expectations."
"The stakes are very high and the people are putting the bar very high," he said. "I am named archbishop of Quebec to take care of the flock of the Lord here."
"I hope to have a lot of influence in my diocese and bring people together to unity, to Christ, to evangelization," he said. "The rest — we'll see what happens. I'm not looking any further right now. I have plenty on my hands."
None of us are capable of what God calls us to do, he said, but God makes those he calls capable.
Lacroix looks to history and sees that God in the past has always been faithful. "Although I am overwhelmed, I have trust in him. If I look at myself, I'll be scared; if I look at him, I'll walk in faith."
In a Feb. 22 news conference, televised over ECDQ.TV, the Quebec archdiocese's Internet-based television network, Lacroix described himself as a simple man, a man of the land and of the people, whose biggest passion is sharing the Good News of the Gospel and inviting people to a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Asked about Ouellet's influence on him, he said he gained much from him, and praised his love for the Word of God and his courage.
"I am different, I will accent different things," he said, stressing he is one who evangelizes in the name of the Lord, and who wishes to be in dialogue with the society outside the Church.
"I am a simple man," he said. "I am not among the grand theologians of the world, but I love the Lord and I love the people."
He described himself as a man of the land and of the family, noting he came from a family of seven children, and his six brothers and sisters have married and provided him with many nieces and nephews. His parents are still alive, it was in this milieu that he "grew up and was formed."
Poised and seemingly comfortable before the cameras, and quick on his feet in providing articulate answers, Lacroix also fielded the inevitable questions about abortion that had dogged the last months of Ouellet's time in Canada.
Abortion, he said, is not only an issue for the Church, which upholds the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, but for Quebec society where 30,000 abortions take place every year.
Lacroix has served as the diocesan administrator of the Quebec Archdiocese since Ouellet's departure.
Born in 1957 in the village of Saint-Lilaire de Dorset, in Quebec's Beauce region, Lacroix spent his teen years in Manchester, N.H., an industrial city an hour north of Boston, where his family had moved to seek employment.
He speaks fluent English with a slight Boston accent. He returned to Quebec as he reached adulthood. He obtained a master's degree in pastoral theology at Laval University before being ordained to the priesthood in 1988.
Lacroix spent about 10 years doing missionary work in Colombia after his ordination, as did Ouellet.