Thank You to
His Grace, Pedro Lopez Quintana
Papal Nuncio to India and Nepal
Archbishop Emeritus of Nagpur
November 23, 2003
There is a story told of a monsignor who was preparing his Confirmation class. There was a new bishop in the diocese and he was especially interested in having his people understand the apostolic office which he held so the monsignor decided to include episcopal attire in the class’s preparation. He spent long hours on the miter, crosier, pectoral cross, cope, etc.
The day of the confirmation arrived and among the bishop’s questions for which the candidates were not prepared he asked, “What is a monsignor?” The candidates looked at one another in surprise. The monsignor was somewhat annoyed. The bishop fiddled with his pectoral cross while awaiting an answer.
One bright young woman, thinking that the bishop’s hand on his pectoral cross was intended to give the candidates a hint at the answer, raised her hand and when called on said, “A monsignor is a big, heavy cross that a bishop has to wear around his neck!”
Extrapolating from that, we know, of course, that bishops and archbishops and cardinals are not big, heavy crosses that nuncios have to wear around their necks! But let me assure you all, that having spent five years working in a nunciature myself in my salad days, many times they are. That, and the pressures of relating to political leaders can wear down the brightest and the best of the papal representatives in any and every country in the world where the Vatican is represented.
When I was asked to say this thank you to Archbishop Quintana for taking time from his work to be with us today, I found myself reflecting that for only the second time in nearly five hundred years in Indian Catholic history has a Spaniard been put in that position. The first such nuncio was, of course, St. Francis Xavier, of happy memory.
These may seem like large shoes for Archbishop Quintana to fill – I should perhaps say boots since historians tell us that one of the few luxuries Francis allowed himself was a pair of sturdy boots for his missionary journeys – but there are ways in which His Grace is already doing that. Francis, as we know, promoted an indigenous clergy and inculturation from almost his first moments in India and in the other countries he visited. This was actually to the despair of many of his Portuguese associates who thought natives unacceptable for priesthood much less episcopal office. Not so Francis, nor our guest today.
Let me quote for you a delightful statement of Archbishop Quintana reported by Fides news service during his first visit to Nepal last July. Please listen carefully because every word is worth its weight in gold.
The Nuncio said, “The Gospel can only take root if it has a profitable meeting with the culture and traditions of the people among whom it is proclaimed. We do not uproot something in order to replace it with something else. To proclaim Jesus Christ among people who already have a religion is not an act of violence, because the Church proposes, she does not impose. The Church proclaims the Good News of Christ in its entirety but at the same time she has respect, love and esteem for the culture and traditions of those who listen to her preaching.”
What else have Francis Xavier and Roberto di Nobili and our own modern Catholic theologians in India and abroad been saying! We are blessed in having among us today, and we hope for years to come, a Papal Nuncio who understands this as well as he does.
In my message to you in the official jubilee souvenir booklet I asked you not only to look back but to look ahead to the millions of our countrymen and women crying out for faith, hope, and love. I asked you to move among them respecting and esteeming their cultures, applauding all that is good in them, and working with them for the benefit of the poorest of our poor, those on the margins of our economic, social, and political lives in particular. With the added impetus of the word spoken to us today and his presence among us, I ask you now also to live out the evangelical thrust Archbishop Quintana offered in Nepal and to us also today.
Among other things that will guarantee that none of us are heavy crosses around this man’s neck or any others in positions of authority among us.