Christian Lepine dons Montreal's mitre as new bishop
Published Wednesday, March 21, 2012 5:26PM EDT
MONTREAL - As Montreal's populist archbishop calls it a career, his cerebral successor enters at a time of dwindling numbers at the pews and a shortage of priests.
Archbishop Christian Lepine was named to the post this week by Pope Benedict XVI and says he's ready to be open and listen. The new top church official says he wants to be proactive and spread the gospel to where families and youth live.
"I'm humbled by this," said Montreal-born Lepine. "We have to be patient, to learn to meet each other at the deepest level of who we are as human beings."
A member of the church's conservative wing, Lepine offered few clues about his political stances during Wednesday's press conference. The bishop did say that he doesn't think divorced Catholics should receive communion.
The Quebec Council of Gays and Lesbians is raising concern about the appointment, citing Lepine's past views on homosexuality.
Lepine takes over from Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, 75, who held the post for 22 years at Canada's second-largest Catholic diocese before announcing his intention to retire.
Turcotte is known for his affable disposition and media savvy, such as using hockey examples to illustrate points about religion. He is also known for having taken a public stand against abortion, famously returning his Order of Canada after pro-choice activist Henry Morgentaler was named to the order in 2008.
For his part, Turcotte says he's happy to get out of the limelight and will be focusing on his health.
Turcotte says he will continue to work for the church, which is facing a shortage of priests in Montreal, but is glad to let Lepine take over the job.
Turcotte quips that he's a bit of a joker, while his successor is a more serious individual. The elder cardinal says the difference in character is a good thing.
"He's more calm than I am, I like to make jokes, he have to learn maybe to make jokes I think it's important," said Turcotte. "First of all I want to have time to pray. I'm going to take time to live a personal life and that's going to be OK for me."
With a new bishop, the senior leaders of the church in Montreal automatically lose their jobs. Lepine can reconfirm them, but he will be given a free hand to pick a new team.
According to Lepine, his goal is to bring people closer together.
"We have different vocations but we all have the same humanity, we are men and women but we have the same humanity," said Lepine.