Even Catholics are not immune from “the virus of polarization and animosity,” the pope told the new cardinals, and “we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts.”
Creating 17 new cardinals from 14 nations Nov. 19, the pope said the College of Cardinals — and the Catholic Church itself — must be a sign for the world that differences of nationality, skin color, language and social class do not make people enemies, but brothers and sisters with different gifts to offer.
Three of the new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica were from the United States: Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago; Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican office for laity, family and life; and Joseph W. Tobin, whom the pope asked to move from being archbishop of Indianapolis to archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.
Only 16 of the new cardinals were present for the ceremony. The Vatican said 87-year-old Cardinal Sebastian Koto Khoarai, the retired bishop of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho, was created a cardinal although he was unable to travel to Rome.
After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal’s ring, a three-cornered red hat and a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing their “titular church” in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope’s diocese.
After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals hopped in vans for a short ride to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens. The retired pope greeted the cardinals, thanked them for stopping by and assured them, “My prayers will accompany you always.”
Cardinal Mario Zenari, the pope’s ambassador to Syria, spoke on behalf of the new cardinals, promising Pope Francis that they and the entire Church would continue to be envoys of God’s mercy, bending down to help those “left half dead on the side of the road, wounded in body and spirit.”
The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Luke’s version of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
“They are four things we can easily do for our friends and for those more or less close to us, people we like, people whose tastes and habits are similar to our own,” Pope Francis said. But Jesus, not mincing his words, calls his followers to more.
“With people we consider our opponents or enemies,” the pope said, “our first instinctive reaction … is to dismiss, discredit or curse them. Often we try to ‘demonize’ them, so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification for dismissing them.”
In God, he said, there are no enemies. There are only brothers and sisters to love.
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