03/25/2006, 00.00
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Pope: Everything in the Church goes back to Mary's "Here I am"

Benedict XVI consigned the ring, "a nuptial sign" to the 15 new cardinals. Today's celebration of the Annunciation "helps us to consider today's event, which emphasizes the Petrine principle of the Church, in the light of the other principle, the Marian one, which is even more fundamental".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – "Everything" in our personal lives, and in ecclesial activity, "is inspired by charity and leads to charity", the same which inspires the love of God and the "here I am" of Mary on the Day of the Annunciation, a "prelude" to the Incarnation, "from which everything comes". The "providential" coincidence, of the first Eucharistic concelebration of the 15 new cardinals with the feast of the Annunciation, underpinned Benedict XVI's reflection for the consignment of rings to the new cardinals. A "nuptial sign" of love, on the day emphasizing that "everything in the Church, every institution and ministry, including that of Peter and his successors, is 'included' under the Virgin's mantle, within the grace-filled horizon of her 'yes' to God's will".

The sun was shining over St Peter's Square, greeted with a humorous remark by the Pope, who entered the square in procession from the bronze door. This unusual move – usually the pope arrives from the basilica – was probably owing to his desire to "accompany" the cardinals through 30,000 jubilant people who participated in the mass, together with the entire College of Cardinals, hundreds of bishops and the diplomatic corps. People among the crowd waved the national flags of the new cardinals, including an unexpected one from North Korea, brought by someone in honour of Cardinal Cheong, Archbishop of Seoul, who is also apostolic Administrator of the northern part of his still divided country. A Chinese girl in the offertory procession marked the presence at the ceremony of Cardinal Zen's suffering church as well.

There was the ritual linked to the consignment of the ring – a symbol of dignity and of special union with the See of Peter – by the Pope to the new cardinals, who received it, one by one, kneeling before him. Shortly beforehand, in his homily, Benedict XVI had said: "May your acceptance of the ring be for you a renewal of your 'yes', your 'here I am', addressed both to the Lord Jesus who chose you and constituted you, and to his holy Church, which you are called to serve with the love of a spouse."

The Pope continued: "What a great gift, dear Brothers, to be able to conduct this evocative celebration on the Solemnity of the Lord's Annunciation! What an abundance of light we can draw from this mystery for our lives as ministers of the Church! You above all, dear new Cardinals, what great sustenance you can receive for your mission as the eminent 'Senate' of Peter's Successor! This providential circumstance helps us to consider today's event, which emphasizes the Petrine principle of the Church, in the light of the other principle, the Marian one, which is even more fundamental.

"The importance of the Marian principle in the Church was particularly highlighted, after the Council, by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II, in harmony with his motto Totus tuus. In his spirituality and in his tireless ministry, the presence of Mary as Mother and Queen of the Church was made manifest to the eyes of all. More than ever he adverted to her maternal presence in the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981 in Saint Peter's Square. In memory of that tragic event, he had a mosaic of the Virgin placed high up in the Apostolic Palace, looking down over Saint Peter's Square, so as to accompany the key moments and the daily unfolding of his long reign. It is just one year since his pontificate entered its final phase, full of suffering and yet triumphant and truly paschal.

"The icon of the Annunciation, more than any other, helps us to see clearly how everything in the Church goes back to that mystery of Mary's acceptance of the divine Word, by which, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Covenant between God and humanity was perfectly sealed. Everything in the Church, every institution and ministry, including that of Peter and his successors, is 'included' under the Virgin's mantle, within the grace-filled horizon of her 'yes' to God's will. This link with Mary naturally evokes a strong affective resonance in all of us, but first of all it has an objective value."

The theme of the relationship between the Petrine and Marian principles "is also found in the symbol of the ring which I am about to consign to you. The ring is always a nuptial sign. Almost all of you have already received one, on the day of your episcopal ordination, as an _expression of your fidelity and your commitment to watch over the holy Church, the bride of Christ (cf. Rite of Ordination of Bishops). The ring which I confer upon you today, proper to the cardinalatial dignity, is intended to confirm and strengthen that commitment, arising once more from a nuptial gift, a reminder to you that first and foremost you are intimately united with Christ so as to accomplish your mission as bridegrooms of the Church. May your acceptance of the ring be for you a renewal of your 'yes', your 'here I am', addressed both to the Lord Jesus who chose you and constituted you, and to his holy Church, which you are called to serve with the love of a spouse. So the two dimensions of the Church, Marian and Petrine, come together in the supreme value of charity, which constitutes the fulfilment of each. As Saint Paul says, charity is the 'greatest' charism, the 'most excellent way' (1 Cor 12:31; 13:13).

"Everything in this world will pass away. In eternity only Love will remain. For this reason, my Brothers, taking the opportunity offered by this favourable time of Lent, let us commit ourselves to ensure that everything in our personal lives, and in the ecclesial activity in which we are engaged, is inspired by charity and leads to charity. In this respect too, we are enlightened by the mystery that we are celebrating today. Indeed, the first thing that Mary did after receiving the Angel's message was to go 'in haste' to the house of her cousin Elizabeth in order to be of service to her (cf. Lk 1:39). The Virgin's initiative was one of genuine charity, it was humble and courageous, motivated by faith in God's word and the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. Those who love forget about themselves and place themselves at the service of their neighbour. Here we have the image and model of the Church! Every ecclesial community, like the Mother of Christ, is called to accept with total generosity the mystery of God who comes to dwell within her and guides her steps in the ways of love. This is the path along which I chose to launch my pontificate, inviting everyone, with my first Encyclical, to build up the Church in charity as a 'community of love' (cf. Deus Caritas Est, Part II).

"Go to your countries and preach the Gospel" were the Pope's last words to the new cardinals.

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