Archbishop Christian Lépine
MONTREAL – The new archbishop of Montreal is a former seminary director who has served in the Vatican and was only ordained a bishop last September.
Archbishop Christian Lépine, named March 20 to replace Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte who is retiring at age 75, says he wants to help the Church to become more of a place of prayer.
"I deeply believe people need to discover the love of God," Lépine, 60, said in an interview.
The new archbishop said one of his priorities is to help the Church become more and more a praying Church.
The Church can enable people bring the message from God and the Bible and worship into their everyday lives, to make it a gift for others, he said.
That is already part of the life of the Church, "but there is always a space to go further in that direction."
Lépine served as director of the Grand Seminary of Montreal from 2000 until 2006. After that, he was pastor for two parishes in the diocese before becoming a bishop.
He has degrees in theology from the University of Montreal, and philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Lépine also served for a year in the Vatican's Secretariat of State and for a year in the Congregation for Divine Worship.
He was named last July as one of Montreal's auxiliary bishops and ordained in September. His installation as archbishop will take place April 27.
In Quebec, where the secularist pressures are among the strongest in Canada to push religion out of the public square, Lépine said it is good to have a distinction between Church and state to protect religious freedom.
But he rejects the notion that religious faith should be restricted to the private sphere. "Freedom of religion means the freedom to profess our faith in the public and the private sphere," he said.
"There has to be space for expression of religion in the public sphere and for views that are motivated by faith."
Lépine said he has appreciated how Turcotte has "always kept Christ at the centre," and made the "project of the diocese to announce Christ in this world."
In his 22 years as archbishop, Turcotte's message has been, "when times are difficult it is time to meet Christ more and more," he said.
"There is never a point where you can say I know Christ and now I will go do something else," Lépine said. "Christ is not a program."
Montreal serves a Catholic population of 1.5 million with 214 parishes and missions, 400 diocesan priests, 572 religious priests, 3,678 religious sisters and brothers, 96 permanent deacons and 105 lay pastoral assistants.