Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Papal Homily at the Consistory

Lord Cardinals,Venerable Brothers of the Episcopate and Priesthood,Dear brothers and sisters!

Today -- in this Vatican basilica, heart of the Christian world -- is renewed a significant and solemn ecclesial event: the ordinary public consistory for the creation of 23 new cardinals with the imposition of the biretta and the conferral of the title. It is an event that every time awakens a special emotion, and not only in those who with these rites are admitted to the College of Cardinals, but in the whole Church, joyful over this eloquent sign of Catholic unity.

The ceremony itself in its structure discloses the value of the task that the new cardinals are called to perform, closely cooperating with the Successor of Peter, and it invites the people of God to pray that in their service, these brothers of ours always remain faithful to Christ, even unto the sacrifice of life if it is necessary, and let themselves be guided by his Gospel. For this we gather around them with faith and raise up to God, first of all, our prayerful thanksgiving.

In this climate of joy and intense spirituality I offer with affection my greeting to each one of you, brothers, who from this day forward are members of the College of Cardinals, chosen to be, according to an ancient institution, the closest counselors and co-workers of the Successor of Peter in guiding the Church.

I greet and thank Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who, in your name addressed courteous and devout sentiments to me, emphasizing at the same time the significance and importance of the ecclesial event we are experiencing. I desire, furthermore, to address a dutiful thought to Bishop Ignacy Jez, whom we mourn, whom the God of every grace called to himself, just before his nomination, to offer him a very different crown: that of the glory of Christ.

My cordial greeting then goes to the lord cardinals who are present and also to those who were not able to be with us physically, but who are spiritually united with us. The celebration of the consistory is always a providential occasion to offer “urbi et orbi” -- to the city of Rome and to the whole world -- witness to that singular unity that binds the cardinals to the Pope, Bishop of Rome.

In such solemn circumstances it is also dear to me to address a respectful and deferential greeting to government representatives and leaders who have gathered here from every part of the world, and to the relatives, friends, priests, religious, and faithful of the particular local Churches from which the new cardinals come.

Finally, I greet all those who have come here to pay their respects to the new cardinals and to express in festive joy their esteem and affection for them.

With today’s celebration, you, dear brothers, are with full rights inserted into the venerable Church of Rome, whose shepherd is the Successor of Peter. Thus in the College of Cardinals is revived the ancient “presbyterium” of the Bishop of Rome, whose members, while they carried out their pastoral and liturgical functions in the various churches, did not neglect their precious work in the fulfillment of those tasks connected with assisting the Pope in his universal apostolic office.

The times have changed and today the great family of Christ’s disciples is spread across every continent to the most remote corners of the earth. It speaks nearly all the languages of the world and to it belong people of every culture. The diversity of the College of Cardinals, which is accounted for by geographical and cultural provenance, manifests this providential growth and at the same time demonstrates the changed pastoral needs to which the Pope must respond.

Because of this, the universality, the catholicity, of the Church, is well reflected in the composition of the College of Cardinals: Many are pastors of diocesan communities, others are in direct service of the Apostolic See, and others have rendered meritorious service in specific pastoral sectors.

Each one of you, dear and venerable newly created cardinals, therefore represents a portion of the articulated Mystical Body of Christ that is the Church everywhere diffused. I know what effort and sacrifice is necessary today for the care of souls, but I know the generosity that sustains your daily apostolic activity.

For this reason, in the circumstances in which we live, it is dear to me to confirm to you my sincere appreciation of the service you have faithfully given in many years of work in different spheres of ecclesial ministry, service which now, with this elevation to the cardinalate, you are called to accomplish with greater responsibility, in the closest communion with the Bishop of Rome.

I now think with affection of the communities entrusted to your care and, in a special way, of those that are most tried by suffering, by challenges and difficulties of different sorts. Among these, how can I not turn my gaze with apprehension and affection, in this moment of joy, to the dear Christian communities of Iraq? These brothers and sisters of ours in the faith are experiencing in their own flesh the dramatic consequences of a long conflict and are living in an ever more fragile and delicate political situation.

Calling the patriarch of the Chaldean Church to enter into the College of Cardinals, I intended to express in a concrete way my spiritual nearness and my affection for those populations. We would like, dear and venerable brothers, together to reaffirm the solidarity of the whole Church with the Christians of that beloved land and to invite and to implore from the merciful God, for all peoples involved, the longed-for coming of reconciliation and peace.

A short while ago we heard the Word of God that helps us better to understand the solemn moment we are now experiencing. In the Gospel passage, Jesus had just recalled for the third time the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, but the ambition of the disciples gets the upper hand on the fear that for a moment assailed them. After Peter’s confession at Caesarea and the discussion along the way about who was greatest, ambition drives the sons of Zebedee to claim for themselves the best positions in the messianic kingdom at the end of time. In the race for privileges, the two know well what they want, just as the other 10 do, despite their “righteous” indignation.

In truth, however, they do not know what they are asking for. It is Jesus who makes them understand, speaking in very different terms of the “service” that awaits them. He corrects the coarse conception of merit that they have, according to which man can acquire rights before God.The Evangelist Mark reminds us, dear and venerable brothers, that every true disciple of Christ can aspire for one thing only: to share in his passion without claiming recompense. The Christian is called to assume the condition of “servant,” following in the footsteps of Jesus, spending his life for others in a gratuitous and disinterested way. It is not the quest for power and success but the humble gift of self for the good of the Church that should characterize each gesture and each word of ours. True Christian greatness, in fact, does not consist in dominating but in serving.

Today Jesus repeats to each of us that he “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for the many” (Mark 10:45). This is the ideal that must orient your service. Dear brothers, in entering the College of Cardinals, the Lord asks of you and gives to you the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, love for our brothers, with a total and unconditional dedication, “usque ad sanguinis effusionem” [even to the shedding of blood], as is said in the formula for the imposition of the biretta and as is shown in the garments that you will put on.

Be apostles of God, who is love, and witnesses of evangelical hope: The Christian people expects this of you. Today’s ceremony highlights the great responsibility that weighs on each of you, venerable and dear brothers, and which finds confirmation in the words of the Apostle Peter that we have just heard: “Adore the Lord, Christ, in your hearts, always ready to answer whoever asks you the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Such a responsibility does not exempt you from risks, rather, as St. Peter adds, “It is better, if God wills it, to suffer for doing the good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).

Christ asks you to confess his truth before men, to embrace and share his cause; and to accomplish all of this “with sweetness and respect, with a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:1-16), that is, with that interior humility that is a fruit of cooperation with the grace of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, tomorrow, in this same basilica, I will have the joy of celebrating the Eucharist of Christ the King of the Universe, together with the new cardinals, and I will give them the ring. It will be a very important and opportune occasion to reaffirm our unity in Christ and to renew our common will to serve him with total generosity.

Accompany them with your prayer, so that they will respond to the gift given with complete and constant dedication.

To Mary, Queen of the Apostles, we turn our confidence.

May her spiritual presence today in this singular cenacle be a pledge for the new cardinals and for all of us a constant effusion of the Holy Spirit that guides the Church on her way in history. Amen!
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