Pope Benedict welcomed the newest cardinals Nov. 20 with a call to service and sacrifice, even if it means spilling their blood.
Two Americans, Donald W. Wuerl and Raymond L. Burke, are among the 24 new cardinals the Pope "created" on Nov. 20. Others come from a variety of countries, from Ecuador to Zambia, while 10 are Italians.
The warm reception they received inside St. Peter's Basilica contrasted with the cool morning in Rome, which was drenched by the steady rain of a late fall thunderstorm.
As the soon-to-be members of the Cardinal's College processed to the high altar they were met with cheers, applause and even an airhorn which was quickly silenced by Vatican security.
Flags from many nations waved to greet them, including many from Sri Lanka and the Congo, to welcome their countrymen in the group.
The extremely festive initial atmosphere was punctuated by eruptions of applause at the Pope's announcement, one-by-one, of the names of each candidate.
The Congo's Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa and Germany's Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, the youngest in the group at 57 years old, received enormous ovations.
The basilica quickly took on a solemn and prayerful spirit, as the reading of the Scriptures began. The readings were laden with meaning for the guests of honor.
The first was an excerpt from the First Letter of Peter in which he called Christians to always be ready to bear witness to the reason for their hope so that "those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.
A passage from the Gospel of St. Mark recounted Jesus' teaching to his closest disciples that he who strives to be first will be last. Jesus told them, "whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
"For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
The Pope picked up on the theme in his homily. He said.that Christ's teaching of service indicated a new path for Christian communites and a new way of exercising authority.
Christ thus taught that the fulfillment of the work entrusted to one by God "is the path of the humble gift of oneself up to the sacrifice of life, the path of the Passion, the path of the Cross," explained Pope Benedict XVI.
It is a valid message for the entire Church and especially for her leaders, he said.
"It is not the logic of dominion, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bowing to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross that is at the foundation of every exercise of authority."
He then directed his words to the 24 cardinals-to-be. "(T)he mission, to which God has called you today and that qualifies you for an ecclesial service even more laden with responsibility requires an always greater will to assume the style of the Son of God, who came among us as He who serves."
Each man took on this responsibility as he swore fidelity and obedience to the Pope and his successors.
The Pope also reminded each new cardinal that the dignity of the office is symbolized by the color red, "signifying that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church."
At these words, the Pope received them one-by-one, placing the "biretta," the traditional three-cornered red hat, upon each of their heads. The second in line, Patriarch Antonios Naguib of Alexandria, Egypt of the Copts, was the lone man who did not receive the traditional hat. He instead received a special modification of the long black headdress traditional to the leader of the Copts.
And, as each received his new title and an embrace from the Pope, the faithful once again filled the basilica with cheers of joy for the new "princes of the Church."