Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, spoke at a conference Tuesday on "The Discovery and Evangelization of America," at the Spanish Embassy in the Vatican. It is part of a series of talks on the queen who lived from 1451-1504.
"Without Isabel the Catholic, America would not be what it is," Cardinal Castrillón said.
He pointed to the "Christian humanism" of the Castilian queen, as well as her educational history, her love of art and literature, and her gift of languages (she also spoke French, Italian, Catalan and Galician).
The queen also "gave the gift of the faith to America," and not the imposition of beliefs, the cardinal clarified, lamenting the "slander and black legend" that accuse Isabel of having imposed the faith with blood. The cardinal said he hoped that the sovereign's cause of beatification would be successful.
Some of Isabel's great works, he said, were her reformation of the clergy and of some religious orders, as well as her opposition to slavery.
The desire to extend the common good and the loving treatment of the Indians are two distinguishing characteristics of this queen who "loved God and her subjects with one and the same heart," the Colombian cardinal added.
The distinction between serfs -- a medieval term -- and subjects, proper to the new modern era -- also shows the profound heart of this woman, the cardinal continued, whom he regards as the "first woman missionary of Spain of the New World."
"Without evangelization, the conquest of America would have been far more difficult and unjust," the cardinal said. Missionaries worked hard to avoid injustices and created hospitals, schools and universities "sowing humanity," and knew how to "insert themselves in the new towns," the cardinal said.