.- Pope Benedict XVI issued a challenge to 22 new cardinals today, calling on them to sacrifice their lives for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, even to the point of martyrdom.
“The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love,” the Pope said in his homily for the Feb. 18 consistory ceremony, which was held in St. Peter’s Basilica.
He then reflected on the significance of the red birettas that he would later place on the heads of the new cardinals. “Love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the color of their robes.”
In total, 22 new cardinals were created this morning, including two from the United States. They are Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Emeritus Archbishop of Baltimore and now the Grand Master of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Cardinal Thomas C. Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, was also among those who received the honor of being named a cardinal today.
Pope Benedict explained that as the “parish priests of Rome,” each of the new cardinals was given a titular church within the Pope’s diocese, thereby fully inserting them “in the Church of Rome led by the Successor of Peter.” These positions will also allow the cardinals to “cooperate closely with him in governing the universal Church.”
In particularly, he explained, “the new cardinals will be called to consider and evaluate the events, the problems and the pastoral criteria which concern the mission of the entire Church.”
This is a “delicate task,” but they can look to St. Peter, “who for the love of Christ gave himself even unto the ultimate sacrifice,” the Pope said.
The Pope told the 22 new cardinals that they must “serve the Church with love and vigor, with the transparency and wisdom of teachers, with the energy and strength of shepherds, with the fidelity and courage of martyrs.”
“Dear Brothers who are to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals,” he said, “may Christ’s total gift of self on the cross be for you the foundation, stimulus and strength of a faith operative in charity.”
He counseled them to carry out their mission in the Church and the world always “‘in Christ’ alone, responding to his logic and not that of the world, and may it be illumined by faith and animated by charity which comes to us from the glorious Cross of the Lord.”
After his homily, Pope Benedict called out the name of each new cardinal. In response, they recited the Creed and swore obedience to the Pope and his successors. Then, one by one, they ascended to the high altar of St. Peter’s, where the Pope bestowed the red biretta hat and the cardinal’s ring upon each man.
The Pope explained to them that the ring depicts Saints Peter and Paul with a star in the middle, evoking Mary, the Mother of God.
“Wearing this ring, you are reminded each day to remember the witness which these two apostles gave to Christ even unto martyrdom here in Rome, their blood making the Church fruitful,” he said.
The most significant task awaiting any new cardinal is the election of a new pontiff when the reigning Pope dies. Only those under the age of 80, however, are entitled to vote. After today’s consistory, the College of Cardinals has 213 members, of whom 125 are eligible to vote.
Following the ceremony Pope Benedict XVI also confirmed the canonization of seven new saints, two of whom are related to the United States.
The first is Blessed Marianne Cope, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, N.Y., who died in 1918. She spent many years caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. The other is Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk girl who converted to Catholicism and died at the age of 24. She will become the first Native American saint.
Their canonization ceremony will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.