The Holy See
back up



Altar of the Chair in St Peter's Basilica
Saturday, 5 August 2006


Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

Our beloved Archbishop Gabriel has left us! The Angel of the Lord passed through the house of the Sisters of Mercy who had so lovingly cared for him and said to our dear Brother, "Tempus non erit amplius. There should be no more delay" (Rv 10: 6).

We are gathered here today to offer him our last farewell, to thank the Lord for having raised up in his Holy Church this extraordinary Apostle of modern times and lastly, to entrust him to the Father's mercy so that he may gladly welcome him among the saints in Heaven.

At the same time, today we comfort Cristina and Teresa, the late Archbishop's beloved sisters, as well as other relatives and the praiseworthy Religious of Alma who welcomed him when sickness knocked at his door.

We are then united in prayer with the Ambassadors, Cardinals, Bishops and priests who remember the one who has departed from us with affection and gratitude.

A life for the Church

Brothers and sisters, while we pause to meditate on the Gospel passage of the Beatitudes proclaimed just now at our liturgical assembly, let us think back to the various stages in the life of Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Apostolic Nuncio, marked from the very first by a keen awareness of God's presence, passed on to him by the authentically Christian family in which he grew up. His father was also an Ambassador to the Holy See.

Young Gabriel, who became a priest in 1953 in his native city, Bogotá, entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See four years later. He served at various Papal Representations and later at the then Council for Public Affairs of the Church, where he attended to problems that concerned the Church in Eastern European countries, still under the harsh Communist influence.

A good Shepherd

Archbishop Montalvo was also a man of peace in his personal relationships, which he cultivated with deep discretion and respect. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth", Jesus said.

The docility of this beloved brother of ours was expressed by attention to the views of others, in openness and the desire for dialogue, in a spirit of understanding and reconciliation. For this reason too, he showed himself to be a fine, able diplomat at the service of the cause of the Gospel in various nations: from Honduras and Nicaragua to Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, and later, in Yugoslavia, Belarus and finally, the United States of America.

He also showed readiness, human wisdom and a profound spirituality when the Holy Father John Paul II called him to direct the formation of young priests as President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

He knew how to listen and, when necessary, to advise with a rare talent for psychological penetration that was revealed in well thought-out and precise opinions. He was an example of discretion for us all, almost as if to remind us of what the Prophet Isaiah said about the future Messiah: "He will not cry or lift up his voice" (Is 42: 2). He preferred the method of discreet and respectful work and always endeavoured to bring the Gospel leaven to the life of individuals and nations.

He always sought to bring a word of hope and peace to the difficult situations in Central America as well as in Eastern Europe.

A builder of peace

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God". And in fact, he always tried to deserve this Beatitude in his various diplomatic missions. Here in particular, in addition to the difficult steps he took with the unforgettable Archbishop Agostino Casaroli in contacts with the Churches and Countries of Eastern Europe, I am also thinking of his contribution to the negotiations directed by Cardinal Antonio Samorè for the peaceful conclusion of the controversy over the Beagle Channel between Argentina and Chile.

During my stay in Chile as Apostolic Nuncio, I personally witnessed his passion for peace between peoples that sprang from a deep inner experience of God and was expressed in a life of consistent holiness.

"Fides, Spes, Caritas" was his episcopal motto: the three theological virtues never ceased to be transcendent references that inspired his ecclesial service.

At this difficult moment for so many of our brothers tragically involved in the painful conflict in the Middle East, may our late-lamented Archbishop intercede from Heaven for all who are working for peace, so that a senseless massacre will end soon and people return to being brothers and sisters to one another, children of the same Heavenly Father.

A Gospel witness

And now, before ending, let me also recall the spirit of faith that sustained him during the calvary of his illness, and his example of union with God in prayer. To the very end he wanted to celebrate Holy Mass; to the very end he faithfully read the Breviary and recited the Marian prayer of the holy Rosary.

Treasuring the comforting words that the Holy Father Benedict XVI addressed to him in his autograph Message of last 16 May, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo allowed "him, the Lord Jesus, with whom we are united daily in the Holy Eucharist", the Pope's hand-written Message says, also to be the one "to make our current suffering fruitful for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world".

We are celebrating his funeral on the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, on a Saturday especially dear to the Virgin Most Holy because today is the liturgical Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major.

As we thank the Lord for the good that our dear confrere did in serving the Church, let us ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of hope, to welcome him into Paradise. There, our dear Fr Gabriel will be able to contemplate for eternity the transfigured face of Christ, that face which he was able to recognize and honour in so many brothers and sisters whom he met during his earthly pilgrimage.

May the Lord welcome him in the joy of Heaven. Amen!


*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.34 p.4.