Valladolid, Spain, Feb 8, 2015 / 06:01 am
Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez' friends say one of his first decisions as Archbishop of Valladolid was to set aside part of his salary to help those affected by Spain's economic crisis. Although he will be made a cardinal within the week, his pay remains the same – that of a typical parish priest.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis announced that Archbishop Blazquez would be among the 20 men whom he will raise to the dignity of cardinal at a consistory being held Feb. 14.
The son of farmers from Villanueva del Campillo, a village in central Spain, Bishop Blazquez was born in 1942. He is the oldest of seven children.
He was ordained a priest in 1967 at the age of 24, after having entered minor seminary at the age of 13. He received his doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome and later returned to Avila in 1972, where he was secretary of the Theological Institute.
In 1974 he became professor at the Pontifical University of Salamanca. He was soon named Dean of the theology faculty, and from 2000 to 2005 he was the university's Grand Chancellor.
He was consecrated a bishop in 1988, and appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago de Compostela.
He was appointed Bishop of Palencia in 1992; then Bishop of Bilbao in 1995. In 2010 he was made Archbishop of Valladolid.
He is currently president of the Spanish bishops conference, and is no stranger to the position. He also held the position from 2005 to 2008, and from 2008 to 2014 was its vice president.
One of the first things he did upon arriving in Valladolid in 2010 was to decrease his salary, and he encouraged the priests of the archdiocese to do the same, and to donate part of their earnings to Caritas to assist those suffering from Spain's economic crisis.
Now as president of the Spanish bishops, Archbishop Blazquez continues to live with the same austerity.
In 2010, Benedict XVI entrusted him with the apostolic visitation of Regnum Christi, coordinated by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis. In 2012 he represented the Spanish bishops at the Synod on the New Evangelization.
Archbishop Blazquez is one of 20 men who will be made a cardinal at this month's consistory, and one of the 15 who, being under the age of 80, would be able to vote in a papal conclave.
A day in the life of Archbishop Blazquez
The archbishop starts his day at 6 am. "It is one of the most important times of the day for him, as he can devote time to preparing his day, and above all to prayer," Fr. Luis Arguello, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Valladolid, told CNA.
He says Mass at 8:30 am in the chapel of the priests' residence next to the archdiocesan chancery, where elderly and infirm priests live.
Sister Teresa Valbuena of the Disciples of Jesus manages the home.
"Bishop Ricardo often asks about the priests here, and about us nuns," she said. "Many times, unbeknownst to us, he leaves us a gift on a shelf somewhere. Once after he came back from Rome, he brought us a rosary and a holy card of the Pope."
After Mass he works in his office, from 10 am to noon. He receives visitors, meets with collaborators, and answers correspondence. In Valladolid Archbishop Blazquez does not have an church-owned car. He uses his own Volkswagen Golf to drive twice a month to Madrid to work at the bishops' conference.
Fr. Luis Arguello has been working with Archbishop Blazquez for the last five years, and says he is very meticulous when issuing a document.
"He reads it and re-reads it. He has proofed it, he proofs it again. He is very accurate, but at the same time on a personal level he is very understanding."
As his close collaborator, he says Archbishop Blazquez "always tries to makes sure that the people with him are okay. When he is in a situation of conflict he makes a great effort to unite."
At 2 pm he returns to his apartment to have lunch, which his caretaker Andres Caballero and his family prepares for him.
"My wife helps with the housework at bishop's house," Caballero said. "She cooks and cleans the apartment. Sometimes the bishop eats the same meals she has prepared for us. Bishop Ricardo is like family to us. He is a very dear person."
After a brief rest, Archbishop Blazquez returns to work. "The other day he stopped by the priests' residence while they were eating. He often comes by unannounced. He went around to each table talking to everyone. He cares deeply for elderly priests," Sister Teresa explains.
He also visits the Valladolid seminary on a regular basis. He meets with the formation directors and the seminarians. "He knows them by name, and the expertise of each," Fr. Arguello says.
According to the vicar general of the diocese, "When he meets with young people he shows a special priestly affection. He wants to walk with them, encourage them, and help them to discover their vocation."
He returns home normally around 9 or 10 pm, when he can finally have some downtime. "I think his favorite pastimes are reading and walking," Fr. Arguello said.
During summer vacations he visits his family, with whom he has a close relationship, but he also takes time to meet with his theologian friends Olegario Fernandez de Cardedal and Jose Manuel Sanchez Caro.
"They have always been friends, from the theology department. They met in Avila and were later professors at the Pontifical University of Salamanca. Their love for the priesthood and for theology unites them," Fr. Arguello explained.
But he also finds time during his vacation to visit the priests' residence. Sister Teresa says that Archbishop Blazquez normally spends Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there.
Once on Christmas Eve, he asked the four nuns who run the residence to have dinner with the priests who live there. Sister Teresa says he told them, "We are all one family, and we have to share."