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Pope names prelate raised in Manchester as new Cardinal

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 13. 2014 2:45PM
Archbishop Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, who grew up in Manchester, will become a cardinal of the Catholic Church next month. Lacroix is shown in a 2011 photo when he spoke at his alma mater, Trinity High School in Manchester, while serving as an auxillary bishop of Quebec. (UNIONLEADER FILE PHOTO)

MANCHESTER — Pope Francis Sunday announced the elevation of 19 bishops to the rank of cardinal, including Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, who spent his formative years in Manchester and becomes the first cardinal to hail from New Hampshire.

Lacroix, 56, is a 1975 graduate of Trinity High School and also studied at St. Anselm College, but returned to his native Quebec to prepare for the priesthood.

He will be elevated to Cardinal during a consistory on Feb. 22.

"Very big responsibility. Very happy to continue to serve the Church with François," Lacroix wrote in a Facebook post, and on Twitter.

"We are elated at the news, the first cardinal from New Hampshire," said Monsignor Anthony Frontiero of St. Joseph Cathedral. "I believe the Holy Father has made this decision for a very specific reason. He recognizes that Archbishop Lacroix as a true evangelist, something the church is in need of. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and a tremendous day for New Hampshire and the church in our state."

The son of a lumberjack, Lacroix was born in Quebec, but moved with his family to Manchester at the age of 8.

He is the only North American on the list of new cardinals released by the Vatican Sunday.

Sixteen of the new cardinals are under 80 and will have the right to vote to choose a successor to the Pope. Three will be made cardinal emeritus, without voting rights, for their service to the church.

During his senior year at Trinity, Lacroix became a member of the Pius X Secular Institute. After a year of studies at St. Anselm College, Lacroix moved back to Quebec and the Institute to pursue his formation to consecrated life. He worked in a print shop as a graphic designer, and later in a bookstore and as an editor.

In 1981, he took a leave of absence to do missionary work in Colombia, where he worked in a health clinic for the poor.

Lacroix returned to Quebec to study for the priesthood, and was ordained in 1988. Two years later, he was back in South America, serving as a missionary and parish priest, and teaching in a seminary. He also had a radio program and did some work in television.

Lacroix was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Quebec in 2009. In 2011, he was appointed Archbishop of Quebec by Pope Benedict.

He was the speaker at the St. Anselm commencement exercises in 2011 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity degree.

"He is such a wonderful person," said Frontiero. "A generous, kind man of deep faith and effective leadership."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement Sunday, congratulating Lacroix.

"The appointment of Gérald Cyprien Lacroix to the College of Cardinals is a tremendous honor for His Grace, for the Archdiocese of Québec and all members of the Catholic Church across Canada," said the statement. "It is a testament to his unfailing devotion to the Church, his remarkable spiritual strength and an unfailing work ethic ... With a long and distinguished career, Cardinal-designate Lacroix becomes the 17th Cardinal in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada."

Frontiero said he expects Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester to invite Lacroix to the Queen City to celebrate Mass sometime in the spring.

"It will be quite a celebration," Frontiero said.

Lacroix's parents still live in Manchester. He visits regularly and often celebrates Mass at St. Anthony when he is in town.

According to Frontiero, Pope Francis, following the example set by his predecessors, plans to bring all members of the College of Cardinals together in Rome during the days before the Feb. 22 consistory.

At that meeting, the cardinals are expected to hear a briefing on the Pope's plans for reform of the Roman Curia — the administrative apparatus of the Holy See — and offer their suggestions.

At the consistory, new cardinals are presented with their rings designed for each of them, zucchetti (small skullcaps), and birette (four-cornered silk hats) by the Pope. All three items are scarlet in color.

Cardinals are also assigned titular churches in the diocese of Rome during the consistory.

"They are responsible for these churches, and typically visit and spend time at them during any trip to Rome," said Frontiero.

Brian Flaherty, director of campus ministry at Trinity High School, said Lacroix has maintained a close relationship with the school, and spoke at an anniversary banquet in 2011.

Lacroix grew up as a parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua in Manchester and attended the parish grammar school.

Rev. Richard Dion, the church pastor, said he was spreading salt on the church stairs before Sunday's first Mass when a seminarian assigned to the parish ran up to him with the news.

"I was overjoyed," Dion said. "I set our church bells to peal, which they did for some 40 minutes, in a sign of celebration."

At the start of Mass, Dion announced the elevation of Lacroix, and the congregation responded with prolonged applause.

Lacroix was considered by many to be a likely candidate, given the importance of the Quebec Archdiocese.

Dion noted that Lacroix spent years in service in Pope Francis' native Latin America, and seemed a likely candidate for a leadership role in the pontiff's avowed mission to serve the poor.

New Hampshire Union Leader staff reporter Bill Smith contributed to this report.

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