New cardinal: Church in Morocco is small, but very much alive

CristobalRomero DanielIbanez ACIPrensa 05102019 Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero. | Daniel Ibanez / CNA.

While the Catholic community in Morocco is small, it bears a strong witness to the Gospel as it proclaims the message of Christ and serves those in need, said one of the Church's new cardinals this week.

Cristóbal López Romero, archbishop of Rabat, Morocco, was among the 13 prelates elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Francis on Oct. 5.

López Romero is a member of the Salesians. Born in Spain, he moved to Morocco in 2003 to head the Salesian community there. Pope Francis appointed him Archbishop of Rabat in December 2017.

The Church in Morocco is small, with only about 30,000 Christians among 37 million Muslims, the cardinal told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister agency.

"Nevertheless, it's a significant Church," he said, adding that the Christian community is "significant because of the message we can convey to the Universal Church and the entire world."

Although small, the cardinal said, the local Church is "young" and "lively." In addition, he noted that Catholics living in the country "come from more than 100 nationalities, so we're quite universal, which is what the word 'catholic' means."

This protects the local Catholic community from becoming self-referential, he said. Rather, they recognize the need to build the Kingdom of God in all places and circumstances.

"We are an ecumenical Church," López Romero continued. "We work closely with our Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox Christian brothers."

"We are a Church that's a bridge between Europe and Africa, between Muslims and Christians, between Spain and Morocco, between East and West, between poor and rich. A bridge. That's what we try to be in this time in which so many to seek to raise up walls, barriers, borders, or even pits."

The local Church is heavily engaged in inter-religious dialogue, particularly with Muslims, the cardinal added.

He also pointed to the Church's strong tradition of service, following the example of the Good Samaritan in scripture. The Archdiocese of Rabat often cares for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who pass through Morocco, he said. Some settle there, but most are traveling to Europe.

"We are…a Church that stoops down before the person in need, the person who's really going through hard times, to help him. Whether he's a Muslim Moroccan or an African Christian, it doesn't matter. Like the Good Samaritan, we reach out to the person in need without asking him where he comes from, where he's going, why he's in that situation."

Reflecting on his new role as cardinal, López Romero said that 98% of his daily life and responsibilities will remain the same as before his appointment.

"I'm still the archbishop of Rabat, that is my task, that is what the Church has asked of me. But in that remaining 2%, what will change is that I'll have to travel a little more to Rome to take part in various meetings."

He added that while much of his focus will remain on his archdiocese, "I will have to think a little bit more about the universal Church, because the task of a cardinal is to be beside the pope to support him, advise him, if he asks our opinion, or carry out the tasks that he entrusts to us on a temporary or long-term basis."

"So I must keep in mind that, while being responsible for the Church in Rabat, my concern will have to go beyond those limits and out to the universal Church," he said.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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