WANTED A few good holy men

October 18, 2010
Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana has been in Canada since February and has already visited every region of the country.

Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana has been in Canada since February and has already visited every region of the country.


Canada's new apostolic nuncio is looking for holy men to fill the many episcopal offices that will become vacant in the next few years, especially in Quebec.

Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, who arrived in Canada last February, is not looking for a person who can do everything, "because that is impossible.

"The bishop has to be first of all a holy man," the archbishop said in an interview. A bishop has to know how to work with advisors and collaborators.

Lopez Quintana will work closely with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who now heads the Congregation for Bishops in the Vatican. "I am lucky," he said. "I prepare my proposals and present them to the Holy Father through Cardinal Ouellet. I already have help in him."

"It's a big responsibility," he added, noting that to carry it out, "we have to have a very strong love for the Church, and not be easily influenced by external forces.

"Since I am nuncio, I have discovered the importance of prayer," he said. "More than 80 per cent of our work has to be made in the chapel."

It's through prayer, after reviewing the lives represented in the various dossiers, he gains insight in how to interpret the information.

"Sometimes when you go to the chapel and pray you discover things you had not realized," he said.

Lopez Quintana sees a need for more enthusiasm on the part of pastors. "It is the most extraordinary thing in life to be a priest, even more than that to be a bishop," he said. "It is God who is calling you to do a job, to be his instrument of holiness."

"We can change the world if we are enthusiastic with our calling," he said.

The nuncio sees Canada's challenges lying in secularism, the lure of material wealth and consumerism, and a tendency to privatize religious faith.

"The Gospel says you can't serve God and mammon," he said. "People have to make a choice to centre their life on God or to centre their life on wealth, on consumerism."

In Canada, in a sense, "God is put aside," he said. Canadians consider they are already Christians; they don't need God because they are happy and only recover him when they encounter difficulties as if he is "a medicine to help them."

"We are missing our mission," said Lopez Quintana. Some remain silent because they are afraid of being attacked. Pastors are needed who stand up to defend the truth and look after their sheep.


"We are not to look for the applause of the world," he said. "We have to look for the applause from above."

Another problem in the West is the lack of formation in the faith for many baptized Catholics, he said. They don't recognize their need and have problems with authority.

"Many Catholics have a very big difficulty in accepting the voice of the Holy Father when this voice is not according to their ideas," he said.

Before coming to Canada, Lopez Quintana served six years as nuncio to India, where Christians are a minority but the "personal God was in everything." Christians there face the dangers of syncretism, of adopting too many beliefs and practices from other religions, he said.

Before his time in India, Lopez Quintana spent 13 years at the Vatican working with Pope John Paul II, five of those years closely, even sometimes sharing meals with him.

Pope John Paul modelled a life of deep prayer and taught him to surrender his life to the will of God - not to make any plans, but to follow, he said.

"He was continuously at prayer," he said. "When he was working, he was praying."

John Paul II established a convent of contemplative nuns inside the Vatican and made Lopez Quintana the first chaplain. He saw up close the pope's deep devotion to Our Lady as well as private moments of his deep physical suffering.

When he died, Lopez Quintana felt he had not only lost a man he loved as the pope, but as a father.

The nuncio's own father, who died a couple of years ago, also played a deep role in the development of his faith.


Born in Barbastro, Spain, in 1953, the third of four children, Lopez Quintana sensed a vocation from childhood.

But when he hit his teenaged years, he began to think the priesthood was not for him. He entered university to study telecommunications engineering. Even though he did well in his studies, he felt a "kind of emptiness."

"I was not happy with what I was doing," he said. So he told God, "Okay, I surrender. I will go."

God's grace has "totally changed my life." He is astonished at how he has gone from being a "very timid, shy person" who often finds himself doing things he never thought he could do. "I am saying every day (to God) it is your responsibility, not my responsibility. Go ahead!"

Though Lopez Quintana has only been in Canada six months, he has already visited every region and met almost every Catholic bishop.


Though the nuncio's most important mission is maintaining communion between the Holy See and the local churches, he also plays a role as the Holy See's ambassador to Canada.

He was interested in last summer's G-8 and G-20 summits hosted by Canada, especially the focus on Africa and the Canadian-led maternal health initiative. "We were worried some will try to impose abortion as maternal health, when it is also a trauma for women," he said.

The Holy See sees its role in illuminating the discussion among nations, yet maintaining its freedom through not belonging to the United Nations.

One-third of the money thrown at the banks to fix an economic crisis caused by greed would have been enough to fight hunger in the world, he said. "But we are not able to do that. We are missing this generosity, to help people fight against poverty."