New bishop of Ponce, Puerto Rico ‘shocked’ by appointment

By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When news of his appointment as bishop of the Diocese of Ponce, Puerto Rico,  arrived, Bishop Ruben Gonzalez Medina of Caguas described his reaction in one word: "shock."

"When the apostolic delegate told me that Pope Francis had chosen me, I asked: ‘But why?’" Bishop Gonzalez Medina told Catholic News Service by phone. "He told me: ‘The pope wants a missionary there.’"

His appointment, along with the resignation of 79 year-old-Bishop Felix Lazaro Martinez of Ponce, were announced by the Vatican Dec. 22.

Despite his surprise, Bishop Gonzalez Medina, a Claretian, said he knew that "if the mission calls, you need to start moving."

The Puerto Rican bishop told CNS his new appointment offers an opportunity to follow Pope Francis’ call for a missionary church that goes out to the peripheries and accompanies, serves and learns from the people.

"I am going with a lot of hope, with a lot of joy," he said. "From this perspective, I am enthusiastic and excited in accepting a mission that leads me to the existential peripheries."

Born February 9, 1949, in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Ruben Antonio Gonzalez Medina entered the novitiate of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He studied in Spain and Costa Rica before being ordained in Puerto Rico in 1975.

After serving in several parishes in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, he was named bishop of Caguas Dec. 12, 2000.

As the newly appointed bishop of Ponce, Bishop Gonzalez Medina said his mission is to return hope to the people of his diocese, many of whom are suffering due to the economic struggles the island is facing.

"The fact that there is a large migration to the United States, especially by young people, means we are losing the youthful element" in the island, he told CNS. In order to encourage hope, he said, the value of the human person, and not just the economy, must be at the forefront.

"We need a dialogue with culture, an experience of building bridges, an experience of making space so that people can feel that this door of mercy that the pope just opened can make way to many people who, for whatever reason, have left the gospel experience," he said.

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