The Spanish Salesian Cristóbal López has been the Archbishop of Rabat in Morocco since December 2017.

He’s also one of the new cardinals Pope Francis announced last September 1, and who’ll receive their red hats this Saturday October 5.

Continuing today with our Novena series on the new cardinals, we take a look at some key quotes from López.

Catch up on the series:

Eight quotes to know and share from Cardinal-elect José Tolentino

Eight quotes to know and share from Cardinal-elect Matteo Zuppi

Eight quotes to know and share from Cardinal-elect Miguel Ángel Ayuso

Eight quotes to know and share from Cardinal-elect Jean-Claude Höllerich

1. “Being a cardinal doesn’t make you better than anyone else”

I usually explain that I can’t ascend, nor be promoted or elevated, because I’m already at the top. Yes, I’m at the top, because, like every Christian, I am, by baptism, a son of God, nothing more and nothing less.

Being a cardinal, or bishop, or priest … is nothing more than being a child of God.

We’ve got to understand once and for all that all Christians are equal in dignity and that being a bishop or cardinal doesn’t make us superior to anyone else.

It’s just that we [cardinals] are asked to do a special and concrete service: to help the Pope in what he asks of us and to think about the universal Church.

That will require of me greater authenticity in the experience of the Gospel and total availability to serve the Church, even, if necessary, to shed blood, which is where the red of cardinals’ habits comes from.

2. “We cardinals have no nationality”

We have to forget that we [cardinals] are Spanish or French or American. Cardinals have no nationality. We belong to the Church. I’m not a cardinal of Morocco; I’m not a cardinal of Spain, even though I was born there.

I’m a cardinal of the Church and, therefore, I belong to everyone and am at the service of everyone.

3. “Peace and fraternity”, the goals of Christian-Muslim dialogue

The relationship of the Church with the Muslim world in Morocco is very good – I can’t go any further in my assessment because I know very little.

I will try to continue along the lines of the churches of the Maghreb, which seek to be churches of encounter and dialogue, churches on the way out to the world in which they are incarnated.

In this sense, the Pope’s visit [to Morocco, 30-31 March – ed.] was an occasion to mark a new stage in Muslim-Christian dialogue, a stage that was very well described by His Majesty Mohammed VI [king of Morocco]: moving from coexistence and tolerance, which are good things but which they fall short, to mutual knowledge, about each other, to reciprocal esteem… to build together peace and human fraternity.

4. “People in a migration situation”, not “migrants”

[On his trip to Morocco the Pope] liked that I talked about “people in a migration situation” and not about “migrants”, because, he told me, “we live in a culture of the adjective, in which we label and define the other from adjectives: migrant, homosexual, etc., forgetting that they are people (noun), human beings, our brothers”.

If we keep on speaking about migrants, we’ll end up thinking that they are like Martians, or extraterrestrials… But no, they’re people, with all the rights of people: they’re human beings, and therefore brothers.

5. “What invasion of migrants are we talking about? What are we afraid of?”

Until we see and believe that “my house is the world and my family, humanity”, until we stop seeing the other as a potential “enemy, foe, adversary”, as a threat, then we’ll keep trying to defend ourselves, to protect ourselves… as a natural reaction of fear.

There are Christians who unfortunately have that vision… and it’s a disgrace.

Perhaps they have forgotten that, in the last judgment that we will all undergo, there will be a question that says: “Did you welcome me when I was a stranger, a foreigner, an emigrant…?” And it’s Jesus who’ll ask us that question.

It’s a disgrace that Europe is shielding itself in the way it is, without seeking global solutions, without wanting to change the laws of international trade and the economic-ecological functioning of the planet.

I regret those voices that rise to frighten the population with alleged invasions, with baseless alarms because 50,000 or 80,000 people enter Spain without papers (of which, more than half pass to France or other countries as soon as they can).

In this month of September, Ecuador, a country with 16 million inhabitants (one third of Spain) is preparing to regularise (welcome) the presence of 250,000 Venezuelans; on that scale, Spain could accommodate 750,000 people.

Lebanon, with a size like that of the province of Huelva, has welcomed 1.3 million Syrians, who are 21% of the total of its current 6 million inhabitants. In Africa, Uganda hosts 1.2 million refugees.

Spain, during the Syrian crisis, offered to host, “generously”, 17,000 refugees… and two years later it hasn’t even taken in 3,000.

What invasion are we talking about? What are we afraid of?

6. “I’d like to say to the Church: ignore the statistics”

I came back to Spain… after a 30 year absence [as a missionary in Latin America – ed.]. And I found a Spain that tends to obsess over socio-religious statistics, and is depressed: too few priestly vocations, plummeting Church marriages, a drop in baptisms and other religious practices…

I’d like to say to the Spanish Church: “Don’t be discouraged, ignore the statistics, God will not do a maths test at the end of our existence; live your Christian life with authenticity, focus your efforts on building the Kingdom of God with all people of good will, work for peace and justice, for life and truth, for love and fraternity”.

7. Evangelisation, the work of “living and witnessing” beyond word and book

We have to take the Gospel (not necessarily the printed book of the gospels, but the spirit of the Gospel) to all areas: politics and economics, art and culture, communication and science, family and associations, sports and work…

[We have to] ensure that in all these areas the evangelical criteria rule; that the Gospel slips into all the cracks of society.

That’s what it means to evangelise, and that, preferably, is done by laypeople, whose vocation itis to carry the Gospel where they are, live and work.

Evangelisation is not only or primarily a work of microphone and speaker, word and book; it’s a task of living and witnessing, at work and in personal relationships.

8. Politics today, the “consecration of selfishness and individualism”

Our politics today is the consecration of selfishness and individualism. I wish there were a more global vision.

The Prime Minister [of Spain] coined an expression that everyone repeats now but that hurts and annoys me greatly: “We do this because it is good for Spain and for the Spaniards”. But they don’t worry if the decision bothers the Italians or the Algerians or the Moroccans.

I’ve not yet heard any politician say: “We decided this because it’s good for all mankind. It’s good for us and it’s good for everyone”.

This kind of nationalism which seeks only the good of my homeland, of my country is a bad thing.

I would ask politicians for a broader vision, to go further. If not, they shouldn’t be surprised when others say: “We want this because it’s good for Catalonia and for the Catalans”.

Until we exchange all this for a civilisation of solidarity, of a global family, then we’ll keep having same problems.

(Quotes 1, 3-7 from an interview with the Diario de Sevilla; quotes 2 and 8 from an interview with ABC)


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.