By Paschal Norbert
TANGER, FEBRUARY 10, 2023 (CISA)- The Holy Father has appointed Rev Fr Emilio Rocha Grande, O.F.M, as the new archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Tanger, Morocco, the Holy See Press Office announced on February 7.
The member of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) was until his appointment the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, which fell vacant after the resignation of Archbishop Emeritus Santiago Agrelo Martínez, O.F.M., on May 24, 2019.
Archbishop-elect Emilio Grande was born on May 8, 1958, in Madrid, Spain. He made his solemn vow as a member of the Franciscan order on September 18, 1982, and was consequently ordained priest on February 16, 1991.
Fr Grande studied at the Pontifical University Antonianum also known as the Pontifical University of St. Anthony and graduated with a diploma in theology and vocational formation, and a licentiate in ecclesiastical studies.
According to the Holy See Press office, “he has held the following offices: teacher, guardian of the Conventi (1997-2000 and 2006-2011); master of postulants (2000-2003) and of the temporarily professed (2011-2015); provincial definitor (2000-2010, 2013-2015 and 2017-2020); formator, assistant of the Franciscan Family, provincial vicar (2010-2013); visitator general of the province of Cartagena, Murcia (2011) and of Santiago de Compostela (2018).”
On February 25, 2022, he was appointed the apostolic administrator of Tanger, taking over from Cristóbal Cardinal López Romero, S.D.B., archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Rabat who had been leading the archdiocese in the same capacity since 2019. He will become the fifth archbishop of Tanger.
Archbishop-elect Grande will be one of the two local ordinaries to lead the only two dioceses in Morocco: The Catholic Archdiocese of Rabat and the Catholic Archdiocese of Tanger.
According to the Catholic and Cultures Initiative, The Kingdom of Morocco, which is found to the westernmost tip of northern Africa and borders Spain to the South, is a predominantly Muslim state with Catholics accounting for approximately 0.8% of the total population.
In 2019, ahead of Pope Francis’s apostolic journey to the kingdom, Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero in an interview produced by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said that “The Catholic Church does exist in Morocco. It is a vibrant and young church blessed with mercy and with a strong desire to bear witness.”
“More young than old people come to our churches, more men than women, more black than white people,” he said while referring to the ‘Samaritan Church’ in Morocco that faithfully takes care of immigrants coming from countries south of the Sahara, who are trying to reach Europe or remain in North Africa.