Pope tells new cardinals to say no to the virus of polarization, yes to concerns for our brothers without faith
In the public consistory creating 17 new cardinals, Pope Francis urged new cardinals to love one’s "enemies" and not “demonize them” in order to “have a ‘sacred’ justification for dismissing them.” The College of Cardinals reflects the geographic, linguistic, liturgical and ethnic diversity that "is one of our greatest riches." Three new cardinals are from or based in Asia. Card Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, presented the initial greeting and expression of gratitude. Afterwards, pope and cardinals paid a visit to Benedict XVI.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis, in his homily at today’s Ordinary Public Consistory in St Peter’s Basilica creating 17 new cardinals, said that “The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting,” and this is “contrary to the richness and universality of the Church, which is tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals.” What should concern is the fact that “so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.”
Reflecting a practice initiated by John Paul II, the cardinals are increasingly non-European, including some from small Churches that had not cardinal in the past. Three of the new cardinals are in fact from or based in Asia: Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Patrick D'Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka (Bangladesh); and Anthony Soter Fernandez, Archbishop Emeritus of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). One of the new cardinals, Mgr Sebastian Koto Khoarai, bishop emeritus of Mohale's Hoek (Lesotho), was not present.
Card Zenari, invited to present the initial greeting and expression of gratitude to the pontiff, said: "We are called by the ancient Churches of the East, by young Churches and the Churches of the New World" and "we are invited by her to be in a Church outward bound, in the most diverse existential peripheries."
After reading a passage of the Gospel (Lk 6, 27-36), called the ‘Sermon on the Plain’, Francis compared Jesus’ call to his disciples to his to the new cardinals. “The call of the Apostles is linked to this ‘setting out’, descending to the plain to encounter the multitudes who, as the Gospel says, were ‘troubled’ (cf. v. 18). Instead of keeping the Apostles at the top of the mountain, their being chosen leads them to the heart of the crowd; it sets them in the midst of those who are troubled, on the ‘plain’ of their daily lives.
“My dear brothers, newly created Cardinals, the journey towards heaven begins in the plains, in a daily life broken and shared, spent and given. In the quiet, daily gift of all that we are.”
The pontiff stressed the "four commands" Jesus gives: "Love, do good, bless and pray. [. . .] 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. The problem comes when Jesus tells us for whom we have do these things. Here he is very clear. He minces no words; he uses no euphemisms. He tells us: ‘love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you’ (cf. vv. 27-28).
“These,” he added, “are not things we spontaneously do in dealing with people we consider our opponents or enemies. Our first instinctive reaction in such cases is to dismiss, discredit or curse them. Often we try to ‘demonize’ them, so as to have a “sacred” justification for dismissing them.
“Here we find ourselves confronted with one of the very hallmarks of Jesus’ message, where its power and secret are concealed. Here too is the source of our joy, the power of our mission and our preaching of the Good News. My enemy is someone I must love. In God’s heart there are no enemies. God only has sons and daughters. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people. God has sons and daughters, precisely so that no one will be turned away. God’s love has the flavour of fidelity towards everyone, for it is a visceral love, a parental love that never abandons us, even when we go astray. Our Father does not wait for us to be good before he loves the world, he does not wait for us to be a little bit better or more perfect before he loves us; he loves us because he chose to love us, he loves us because he has made us his sons and daughters. He loved us even when we were enemies (cf. Rom 5:10). The Father’s unconditional love for all people was, and is, the true prerequisite for the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn. To know that God continues to love even those who reject him is a boundless source of confidence and an impetus for our mission. No matter how sullied our hands may be, God cannot be stopped from placing in those hands the Life he wishes to bestow on us.
“Ours is an age of grave global problems and issues. We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts. We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy. An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the colour of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith. An enemy because… And, without our realizing it, this way of thinking becomes part of the way we live and act. Everything and everyone then begins to savour of animosity. Little by little, our differences turn into symptoms of hostility, threats and violence. How many wounds grow deeper due to this epidemic of animosity and violence, which leaves its mark on the flesh of many of the defenceless, because their voice is weak and silenced by this pathology of indifference!
“How many situations of uncertainty and suffering are sown by this growing animosity between peoples, between us! Yes, between us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings. The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting. We are not immune from this and we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the Church, which is tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals. We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin colour, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”
The pope ended with a few recommendations. “Jesus never stops “coming down from the mountain”. He constantly desires to enter the crossroads of our history to proclaim the Gospel of Mercy. Jesus continues to call us and to send us to the “plain” where our people dwell. He continues to invite us to spend our lives sustaining our people in hope, so that they can be signs of reconciliation. As the Church, we are constantly being asked to open our eyes to see the wounds of so many of our brothers and sisters deprived of their dignity, deprived in their dignity.
“My dear brothers, newly created Cardinals, the journey towards heaven begins in the plains, in a daily life broken and shared, spent and given. In the quiet, daily gift of all that we are. Our mountaintop is this quality of love; our goal and aspiration is to strive, on life’s plain, together with the People of God, to become persons capable of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“Today each of you, dear brothers, is asked to cherish in your own heart, and in the heart of the Church, this summons to be merciful like the Father. And to realize that “if something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49).”
At the end of the Consistory, the pope and the new cardinals went to Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to meet with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.