Thursday, January 15, 2015

Availability and obedience: Uruguay's new Salesian Cardinal

 Archbishop Daniel Sturla Berhouet of Montevideo, one of the 20 men to be made a cardinal at next month's consistory, has said his response to the appointment is one of both availability and obedience to the Pope.

Asked how he plans to respond to the new responsibilities Francis has given him, Archbishop Sturla told CNA Jan 11.: “Above all, a sense of availability and obedience to the Holy Father.”

“I have loved the Pope since I was a child, because that was what my family taught me. After that, I am a Salesian, and for Salesians fidelity to the successor of Peter is one of the essential elements that Don Bosco left … I shall do my best to contribute to the good of the Church and concretely to my archdiocese and the Church in Uruguay through this call to greater love and service,” the archbishop said.

He explained that he learned of his appointment as a cardinal when a priest friend telephoned him: “I said it was impossible, that no one had said anything to me.”

“But then I got two more messages from other Uruguayans who were at St. Peter’s. So I said, 'well, it must be true.'”

The archbishop said his first reaction was shock. “And afterwards – I was going to my office – I went instead to the chapel to pray for a while, and that’s where the Lord began slowly filling me with peace.”

His selection by Pope, he said, “is recognition for the Church in Uruguay, a Church that in the context of Latin America is a poor and free Church that has learned to proclaim Jesus Christ in the context of a secular society, remaining faithful to its Catholic identity and having a missionary spirit.”  

According to Latinobarometro, between 1995 and 2013 self-identified Catholics in Uruguay fell from 60 to 41 percent of the total population.

Widespread secularization in Uruguay is a great challenge, he said, reflecting that “in this plural and secular reality, we are called to joyfully proclaim Jesus Christ. Our invitation is to go out to our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the practice of the faith or to those who are indifferent to God, which is so common in our society.”

Archbishop Sturla was born in Montevideo in 1959, and studied at the St. John the Baptist College of the Brothers of the Holy Family, followed by the Salesians' John XXIII Institute, the Miguel Rua Institute, and the Theological Institute of Uruguay.

He entered the Salesians of St. John Bosco as a novice in 1979, and he took his first vows in the institute the following year; he was ordained a priest of the order in 1987. He served as a guidance counselor; a formator of novices; and director of the John XXIII Institute.

Archbishop Sturla also served as the Salesians inspector in Uruguay, and as president of the nation's Conference of Religious.

In 2011 he was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Montevideo, and Pope Francis appointed him as archbishop of that local Church on Feb. 11, 2014.

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