At today’s Consistory Francis conferred the red biretta on 17 new cardinals: “In God’s heart there are no enemies, He only has sons and daughters. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people. God does not wait for us to be a little bit better or more perfect before he loves us”. After the celebration, the Pope and the newly created cardinals boarded two minibuses and went to pay Ratzinger a visit.
“How many situations of uncertainty and suffering are sown by this growing animosity between peoples, between us! Yes, between us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings. The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting. We are not immune from this and we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts.” The Pope said this in his message to cardinals during today’s Consistory, in which 17 new cardinals joined the college, 13 are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a Conclave, while the other four are over 80. At a time when polarisation seems to be prevailing all around the world, the Pope called for a return to the essential aspects of the mission, in the spirit of mercy.
The list of new cardinals begins with Archbishop Mario Zenari, papal ambassador to Syria. In his greeting, the newly created cardinal reminded those present of the fact that some cardinals come “from parts of the world where there are many, millions of unfortunate people, adults and children who are left to die or left half dead on the streets of their villages and neighbourhoods or under the rubble of their own homes and schools as a result of violence and bloody, inhumane and unresolvable conflicts”. The list of new cardinals continues with: Dieudonné Nzapalainga (Central African Republic); Carlos Osoro Sierra Archbishopof Madrid (Spain);Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia (Brazil); Blase Cupich Archbishop of Chicago (US); Patrick D’Rozario Archbishop of Dhaka (Bangladesh);Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, Archbishop of Mérida (Venezuela); Jozef De Kesel, Archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles (Belgium); Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port-Louis (Mauritius); Kevin Joseph Farrell, head of the Pope’s new department on Family, Laity and Life(US); Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepantla (Mexico); John Ribat, Archbishop of Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea); Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark (US); Antony Soter Fernandez, Emeritus Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur (Malesia); Renato Corti, Emeritus Bishop of Novara (Italy); Sebastian Koto Khoarai, Emeritus Bishop of Mohale’s Hoek (Lesotho) and Fr. Ernest Simoni, a priest of the diocese of Shkodrë-Pult (Albania).
In his homily, the Pope commented on the chosen Gospel passage: after the twelve apostles were chosen, Jesus descended “to a great multitude of people who were waiting to hear him and to be healed. The call of the Apostles is linked to this “setting out”, descending to the plain”. “Their being chosen leads them to the heart of the crowd”. “The Lord thus shows the Apostles and ourselves, that the true heights are reached on the plain,” above all in a call: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”. This invitation was accompanied by four exhortations: “love, do good, bless and pray”. These are all actions “we can easily do for our friends”.
The problem, Francis pointed out, arises when “Jesus tells us for whom we have do these things. Here he is very clear. He minces no words, he uses no euphemisms. He tells us: love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.” “These are not things we spontaneously do in dealing with people we consider our opponents or enemies.” Indeed, when it comes to our enemies, “our first instinctive reaction in such cases is to dismiss, discredit or curse them. Often we try to “demonize” them, so as to have a “sacred” justification for dismissing them.” “Here we find ourselves confronted with one of the very hallmarks of Jesus’ message,” Francis said. “Here too is the source of our joy, the power of our mission.” My enemy is “someone I must love”. In God’s heart, there are no enemies, God only has sons and daughters. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people. God has sons and daughters, precisely so that no one will be turned away.”
“Our Father,” Francis went on to say, “does not wait for us to be good before he loves the world, he does not wait for us to be a little bit better or more perfect before he loves us; he loves us because he chose to love us, he loves us because he has made us his sons and daughters. He loved us even when we were enemies. The Father’s unconditional love for all people was, and is, the true prerequisite for the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn. To know that God continues to love even those who reject him is a boundless source of confidence and an impetus for our mission.”
Francis recalled that ours is an age when “polarization and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts. We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy,” he explained. We see others as the enemy “because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the colour of their skin, their language or their social class” or because “they think differently or even have a different faith”. Slowly but surely, “without our realizing it, this way of thinking becomes part of the way we live and act. Everything and everyone then begins to savour of animosity”.
“How many wounds grow deeper due to this epidemic of animosity and violence, which leaves its mark on the flesh of many of the defenceless, because their voice is weak and silenced by this pathology of indifference!” Francis observed. “How many situations of uncertainty and suffering are sown by this growing animosity between peoples, between us!”
“Yes, between us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings,” Francis stressed, highlighting just how this scourge affects the Church internally as well. “The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting. We are not immune from this and we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the Church, which is tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals.” A college in which differences in customs, skin colour and language represent “one of our greatest riches”.
“As a Church,” Francis concluded, “we are constantly being asked to open our eyes to see the wounds of so many of our brothers and sisters deprived of their dignity, deprived in their dignity. My dear brothers, newly created Cardinals, the journey towards heaven begins in the plains, in a daily life broken and shared, spent and given. In the quiet daily gift of all that we are. Our mountaintop is this quality of love; our goal and aspiration is to strive, on life’s plain, together with the People of God, to become persons capable of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The procedure for the creation of new cardinals during the Consistory, involves new cardinals swearing an oath of fidelity, followed by the imposition of the biretta, the consignment of the ring and the assignment of the title or the Diaconate. The only newly created cardinal the Pope bowed before, was Fr. Ernst Simoni, who suffered persecution in Albania. He was the only non-bishop.
At the end of the celebration, the Pope and the new cardinals boarded two minibuses and headed to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican to meet Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
By Andrea Tornielli/ Vatican Radio