The Church needs bishops who are bold men of faith, says Ouellet

  • August 23, 2010
Cardinal Marc OuelletQUEBEC CITY - In his new duties helping the Pope choose bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet will be looking for bold “men of faith” who have “the guts to help people live it out.”

A bishop has to lead the community, so he needs a deep supernatural vision as well as the capacity to assess the political, cultural and sociological context, said Ouellet, the new Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Above all, a bishop must be “audacious in proposing the Word and in believing in the power of the Word and the power of the Spirit.”

“We have to dare to speak to the deep heart, where the Spirit of the Lord is touching people beyond what we can calculate,” said Ouellet. “We need spiritual discernment and not just political calculation of the risk of the possibility of the message being received.”

Eight challenging years as archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada have forged Ouellet’s vision of the episcopacy. During that time he faced preaching the Good News in a culture that has fallen away from its Christian roots.

Being faithful to Catholic teaching meant opposition from Quebec’s deeply secularized, post-Catholic society. At the same time he had the challenge of making sure his priests were following him.  

“They are also in a situation of tension,” he said. “This is a difficult balance.”

Ouellet also stressed the importance of solidarity among bishops. Earlier this year, Ouellet had spoken out against the lack of episcopal support for the Holy Father during the firestorm of media criticism for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis. Ouellet, too, has often stood alone inside a negative media maelstrom in Quebec.

The need for unity and solidarity goes far beyond any political statements, he said, but involves a personal commitment that rises beyond a dogmatic faith to an “existential faith that means spiritual discernment of the presence of God and of God’s will.”

“We have to tell people about the Crucified and Risen Lord, who is shaping the Church today, with people faithful to His Word, to His divine presence and to the community He wants to see living His Spirit.”

A bishop must always take a personal approach, he said. Bishops not only must state dogmatic positions, they must believe in them deeply, “then you have the power of conviction.”

“If you state it only formally and in the end you do not really want to see it applied because you don’t believe that it is possible that people accept it, you are in trouble for the transmission of the message,” he said.

Ouellet came into Quebec eight years ago facing some suspicion as the “man from Rome” sent to set things straight. He leaves Quebec beloved by many of the faithful, not only in Quebec but across Canada. At his final public celebration of the Eucharist Aug. 15 before leaving for his new job, more than 2,000 people packed the Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupré.  

Ouellet called for openness to new movements in the Church, and expressed hopes those already in Quebec, such as Famille Marie-Jeunesse, Catholic Christian Outreach and the eucharistic movement around the Youth Summit/Montee Jeunesse will “multiply.”

“I believe deeply there will be a new evangelization,” he said.

The Cardinal also called for a new intellectual dynamism, especially a reform of education to “recapture the spirit of Christianity" and “create a new Christian culture.”

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