03/12/2013, 00.00
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Mass "pro eligendo pontifice": Church unity and the primacy of mission

Final act before the Conclave this afternoon. In his homily the Cardinal dean, Sodano, said that " each of us must work to build up the unity of the Church, so that “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.' He then recalled the words Benedict XVI: there is no action more beneficial, so charitable towards others who break the bread of the Word of God, make him share the Good News of the Gospel. Prayers that the future Pope will continue the work of his predecessors to tirelessly promote justice and peace.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Church unity, first of all, in the "diversity of gifts," the primacy of evangelization, that is, the "Service of the Word" and "loving service to the Church and to humanity as a whole" . The Missa pro eligendo pontifce in St. Peter's Basilica, the last appointment before this afternoon, and the beginning of the Conclave: 115 cardinals process, the "voters", and even forty non-voters, all in red vestments.

All cardinals present concelebrated, the Dean, Angelo Sodano, over 80 years of age, who will not enter the Sistine Chapel, but who today, in some way, gave an account of the findings that have emerged from the 10 general congregations in which the cardinals' "were informed", "reflected" and "discerned" the task that is theirs and only theirs: to elect the 265th successor of St. Peter.

Card. Sodano's homily reflects this, commenting on the readings that "will help us to better understand the mission that Christ entrusted to Peter and his successors" - The cardinal's thoughts also extended to the "beloved and venerated Pontiff Benedict XVI, to whom at this time we renew our gratitude. " A long applause from the crowd filling the basilica followed these words.

The first reading to inspire the Cardinal Dean is the passage in Isaiah that prophesies that sending of a Messiah. "The The fulfilment of such a prophecy - he said is fully realized in Jesus, who came into the world to make present the love of the Father for all people. It is a love which is especially felt in contact with suffering, injustice, poverty and all human frailty, both physical and moral. It is especially found in the well known encyclical of Pope John Paul II, "Dives in Misericordia" where we read: "It is precisely the mode and sphere in which love manifests itself that in biblical language is called "mercy" (n. 3).  This mission of mercy has been entrusted by Christ to the pastors of his Church. It is a mission that must be embraced by every priest and bishop, but is especially entrusted to the Bishop of Rome, Shepherd of the universal Church. It is infact to Peter that Jesus said: "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?... Feed my lambs (John 21:15). In his commentary on these words, St. Augustine wrote: "May it be therefore the task of love to feed the flock of the Lord" (In Iohannis Evangelium, 123, 5; PL 35, 1967).  It is indeed this love that urges the Pastors of the Church to undertake their mission of service of the people of every age, from immediate charitable work even to the highest form of service, that of offering to every person the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace. This is what Benedict XVI wrote in his Lenten Message for this year (#3). "Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term "charity" to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the "ministry of the word". There is no action more beneficial - and therefore more charitable - towards one's neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development (cf. n. 16)." "

The theme of unity of the Church is evoked by the second part of the Letter to the Ephesians, where Paul addresses " a strong appeal for church unity: "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph 4,1-3).  St. Paul then explains that in the unity of the Church, there is a diversity of gifts, according to the manifold grace of Christ, but this diversity is in function of the building up of the one body of Christ. "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph 4:11-12). In our text, St. Paul teaches that each of us must work to build up the unity of the Church, so that "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Eph 4:16). Each of us is therefore called to cooperate with the Successor of Peter, the visible foundation of such an ecclesial unity".

Of the "mission of the Pope" the Cardinal Dean speaks from the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." " The text is linked to the first reading from the Messiah's actions in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, reminding us that the fundamental attitude of the Pastors of the Church is love. It is this love that urges us to offer our own lives for our brothers and sisters. Jesus himself tells us: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:12).  The basic attitude of every Shepherd is therefore to lay down one's life for his sheep (John 10:15). This also applies to the Successor of Peter, Pastor of the Universal Church. As high and universal the pastoral office, so much greater must be the charity of the Shepherd. In the heart of every Successor of Peter, the words spoken one day by the Divine Master to the humble fisherman of Galilee have resounded: "Diligis me plus his? Pasce agnos meos... pasce oves meas"; "Do you love me more than these? Feed my lambs... feed my sheep!" (John 21:15-17). In the wake of this service of love toward the Church and towards all of humanity, the last popes have been builders of so many good initiatives for people and for the international community, tirelessly promoting justice and peace. Let us pray that the future Pope may continue this unceasing work on the world level.  Moreover, this service of charity is part of the intimate nature of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of this fact when he said: "The service of charity is also a constitutive element of the Church's mission and an indispensable expression of her very being;'

It is a mission of charity that is proper to the Church, and in a particular way is proper to the Church of Rome, that in the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, is the Church that "presides in charity" "praesidet caritati" (cf. Ad Romanos (preface).; Lumen Gentium, n. 13).  My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a Pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart. We ask this of the Lord, through the intercession of Mary most holy, Queen of the Apostles and of all the Martyrs and Saints, who through the course of history, made this Church of Rome glorious through the ages".



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