QUITO, Ecuador, FEB. 20, 2001 (ZENIT.org–FIDES).- Archbishop José Antonio González Zumárraga of Quito, Ecuador, who will be made a cardinal with 43 others on Wednesday spoke with the news agency Fides.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard that your name was on the list of new cardinals?
Archbishop González: I was deeply touched and happy to learn that the Holy Father had decided to elevate me to the rank of cardinal, but above all I accept it as the will of God.
What fundamental values are the basis of your life as a priest and bishop?
Archbishop González: The main value is that I have been called by the Lord to exercise a pastoral ministry.
Q: As archbishop of Quito, how is this event lived by your Archdiocese?
Archbishop González: This is the crowning of a long process of its history. Quito was the first diocese to be created in the territory which was later to become to Republic of Ecuador. The diocese was created in 1545 by Pope Paul III. And it was from Quito Diocese that all the others in the country came.
After four-and-a-half centuries the Holy See made Quito, which is a territory of only 10,000 square kilometers, primate archdiocese of Ecuador. This is why the appointment is the crowning of this local Church´s long history.
Q: What difficulties and priorities do you face?
Archbishop González: One of the problems is a drop in population with many people migrating from the fields to the cities. City shantytowns have multiplied; hence the need for new pastoral centers and parishes to meet the spiritual needs of the new arrivals.
The archdiocese has at present 170 parishes, of which 110 are urban communities. Another challenge is evangelization in this stage of a changing urban culture and in particular a process of secularization which is invading our societies. We aim to intensify evangelization to maintain the faith strong and lively.
Q: Ecuador is living a crucial time. What do you think about the future?
Archbishop González: For two years the country has been in the grip of a serious crisis — economic, moral, social and political — and the future is uncertain.
But we can come out of this situation. First, by being united as a country. Ecuador´s population is composed of many different ethnic groups with their own culture, and this has made it fragmented, divided. At present there is a move for decentralization which could lead to new division and fragmentation; this must be avoided. We must be united.
On the other hand, united we can consolidate the democratic rule: Our country´s political instability in recent years has presented the world with a picture of a country impossible to govern, and this has been a great hindrance to Ecuador´s material and economic growth. This is another reason for being united.
Q: How would you describe the mission of the Church in Ecuador today?
Archbishop González: The mission of the Church is the one given to her by Christ: to be a force for evangelization and leaven for the building of a Christian community as well as leaven for national unity.
Under the present circumstances, the Church has the mission to put into practice the pastoral guidelines given by the Holy Father Pope John Paul II in the postsynodal document “Ecclesia in America.”
Our bishops´ conference has just approved a pastoral plan for the coming 10 years to apply these guidelines. The plan includes new evangelization, the evangelization of our culture and rendering the Church a force for the transformation and improvement of the nation.
Q: What is the path of the Church in the third millennium to fulfill the mission entrusted by Jesus?
Archbishop González: At the beginning of the third millennium our Church throughout the world has the mission to use all its strength to put into practice the spiritual renewal and transforming power which came from the celebration of the Great Jubilee 2000.
The Church must continue to present Christ as the Savior of humanity and to help all people to encounter the living Christ, an encounter which leads to authentic change of heart, living Church communion and living solidarity with everyone.