During the Saturday morning consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new Cardinals, he urged the prelates gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica to serve the Church fearlessly.
“The Church needs your courage, to proclaim the Gospel at all times, both in season and out of season, and to bear witness to the truth,” emphasized the Pope on Feb. 22.
St. Peter’s Basilica was filled with nearly 200 members of the College of Cardinals and those who had gathered to witness the event. Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI joined the other bishops, wearing his customary white garments rather than the red vestments of a cardinal.
Reflecting on the gospel which was proclaimed at the ceremony, Pope Francis noted that in the scriptures, “Jesus is often walking and he teaches his disciples along the way. This is important. Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy, an ideology… but rather ‘a way,’ a journey to be undertaken with him.”
“But this is not easy, or comfortable, because the way that Jesus chooses is the way of the Cross,” he acknowledged.
Unlike the disciples before the Resurrection who were “shocked” and “full of fear,” said the pontiff, “we know that Jesus has won, and that we need not fear the Cross; indeed the Cross is our hope.”
“And yet, we are all too human, sinners, tempted to think as men do, not as God does.”
Giving into such a “worldly mentality” of fear, however, results in “rivalry, jealousy, factions,” said the Pope.
He emphasized to the cardinals that the Church needs “your cooperation, and even more your communion, communion with me and among yourselves.”
“Brothers, let us allow Jesus to call us to himself!” he urged.
“And let us listen to him, with the joy that comes from receiving his word together, from letting ourselves be taught by that word and by the Holy Spirit, and to become ever more of one heart and soul, gathered around him.”
The “proclamation of the Word” is one of the “primary tasks” of a bishop, noted the Pope. Another primary task is prayer for “Christ’s flock.”
“We want to express our spiritual closeness to the ecclesial communities and to all Christians suffering from discrimination and persecution. The Church needs our prayer for them, that they may be firm in faith and capable of responding to evil with good.”
“This prayer of ours extends to every man and women suffering injustice on account of their religious convictions,” he added. “Let us therefore invoke peace and reconciliation for those peoples presently experiencing violence, destruction, and war.”
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by thanking the Cardinals and encouraging them to “walk together behind the Lord.”
He then continued the ceremony, reading the formula for the creation of new cardinals, followed by the names of each of the 19 men. The College of Cardinals said the creed together, pledging their fidelity and obedience to the Pope and his successors.
Each of the new cardinals knelt before the Pope to exchange the sign of peace and receive their assignment of a church in Rome - a sign of their participation in the Pope’s pastoral care. They were also given the zucchetto, the tri-fold hat called a “biretta,” and the ring of a cardinal.
With the new cardinals, there are now 218 total living cardinals of whom 122 are under 80 years of age and thus eligible to vote in a conclave.
One of the new cardinals, the elderly Italian Archbishop Loris Francesco Capovilla, was not present. The 98-year-old is the former secretary of Pope John XXIII and one of the longest-serving archbishops. In the next few days, the cardinal’s hat will be delivered to him in the town where he resides in the north of Italy.
The 18 new cardinals were scheduled to receive visitors during a reception Saturday afternoon in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace and Paul VI Hall.