Pope to the new cardinals: the Church is Catholic because Christ embraces all humankind in his mission of salvation
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The Church is Catholic because Christ embraces all humankind in his mission of salvation": this is both the main point and the task that Benedict XVI entrusted to six new cardinals created today during an ordinary consistory in St. Peter's Basilica. The universal nature of the Church, expressed in various ways in the Pope's speech, is also visible in the choice of the new cardinals, coming from three continents: America, Africa and Asia. They are: Msgr. James Michael Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, yesterday appointed Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, His Beatitude Béchara Boutros Raï, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch (Lebanon), His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro- Malankaran Church (India), Msgr. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja (Nigeria), Msgr. Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogota (Colombia), and Msgr. Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila (Philippines).
In the allocution, the Pope reaffirmed the universality of the faith and its ability to enter into all cultures of the world: "In the wake and in the perspective of the unity and universality of the Church, there is also placed the College of Cardinals: it presents a variety of faces, since it expresses the face of the universal Church. Through this Consistory, in particular, I wish to emphasize that the Church is the Church of all peoples, and thus it is expressed in the various cultures of the different continents. It is the Church of Pentecost, which in the polyphony of voices raises one harmonious song to the living God."
Benedict XVI then recalled the symbolic meaning of the ring that he gives, with which "your love for the Church is strengthened" and of the red beretta, a sign of "being ready to act with fortitude, even to the shedding of blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquillity of the people of God." Below is the full text of the Pope's speech:
"I believe in the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic."
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
These words, which soon the new Cardinals will solemnly pronounce when making their profession of faith, are part of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the synthesis of the faith of the Church that everyone receives upon Baptism. Only by professing and preserving intact this rule of truth are we true disciples of the Lord. In this Consistory, I want to focus in particular on the meaning of the term "catholic", which indicates an essential feature of the Church and its mission. That topic is a wide one, and could be considered according to different perspectives: today I will just offer a few thoughts.
The characteristic features of the Church respond to the divine plan, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "It is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic; and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities"(no. 811). Specifically, the Church is catholic because Christ embraces all humanity in his salvific mission. While the mission of Jesus in his earthly life was confined to the Jewish people, "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 15:24), it was, however, oriented from the beginning to bringing to all peoples the light of the Gospel and to making all nations enter the Kingdom of God. Before the faith of the centurion at Capernaum, Jesus exclaims: "Now I say to you that many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 8:11). This universal perspective emerges, among other things, from Jesus' presentation of himself not only as "Son of David," but as "Son of Man" (Mk 10:33), as we heard also in the Gospel passage proclaimed earlier. The title "Son of Man" in the language of Jewish apocalyptic literature inspired by the vision of history in the Book of the Prophet Daniel (cf. 7:13-14), recalls the figure who comes "on the clouds of heaven" (v. 13) and is an image that promises a whole new kingdom, a kingdom not sustained by human powers, but by the real power that comes from God. Jesus uses this rich and complex phrase and refers to Himself in order to show the true character of his messianism, as a mission destined for the whole man and every man, overcoming every particularism, whether ethnic, national or religious. And it is precisely in the following of Jesus, in allowing oneself be drawn in by his humanity and thus brought into fellowship with God that we enter into this new kingdom, which the Church proclaims and anticipates, and which overcomes fragmentation and dispersion.
Jesus then sends his Church not to a group, but to the whole of mankind to gather it, in faith, into one people in order to save it, as the Second Vatican Council expressed well in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium: "All men are called to be part of the new People of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world, and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God's will may be fulfilled"(no. 13). The universality of the Church thus draws on the universality of the one divine plan of salvation of the world. This universal character emerges clearly on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fills with his presence the first Christian community, so that the Gospel may spread to all nations and to make the one People of God flourish in all peoples. Thus, the Church, from its inception, is oriented kat'holon, it encompasses the entire universe. The Apostles bear witness to Christ by addressing men from all over the earth and each one understands them as if they were speaking in their native language (cf. Acts 2:7-8). From that day the Church with the "power of the Holy Spirit," according to Jesus' promise, announces the Lord who died and rose, "in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 ). The universal mission of the Church, therefore, does not rise from below, but descends from above, from the Holy Spirit, and from the first moment is directed to being in every culture to thus form the one People of God. It is not a community that extends and expands slowly, but is like a yeast that is oriented towards the universal, to the whole, and carries in itself this universality.
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15), "make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19). With these words, Jesus sends the apostles to all creatures, so that the saving action of God may arrive everywhere. But if we look at the moment of Jesus' ascension into heaven, narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the disciples are still locked in their vision, thinking of a new restoration of the Davidic kingdom, and ask the Lord: "has the time come when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"(Acts 1:6). How does Jesus respond? He responds by opening their horizons and giving them a promise and a duty: he promises that they will be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and gives them the duty to bear witness to him throughout the world, overcoming the religious and cultural boundaries within which they were accustomed to thinking and living, to open themselves to the universal Kingdom of God. And at the beginning of the Church's journey, the Apostles and the disciples leave without any human security, but solely with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and the faith. It is the leaven which spreads throughout the world, it enters into the various events and into the various cultural and social contexts, but remains a single Church. Around the Apostles, Christian communities bloom, but they are "the" Church, which, in Jerusalem, Antioch or Rome, is always the same, one and universal. And when the Apostles speak of the Church, they are not speaking about their own communities, but about the Church of Christ, and insist on this unique, universal and total identity of the Catholica, which materializes in every local church. The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, it reflects in itself the source of its life and of its journey: the unity and communion of the Trinity.
In the wake and in the perspective of the unity and universality of the Church, there also places itself the College of Cardinals: it presents a variety of faces, since it expresses the face of the universal Church. Through this Consistory, in particular, I wish to emphasize that the Church is the Church of all peoples, and thus it is expressed in the various cultures of the different continents. It is the Church of Pentecost, which in the polyphony of voices raises one harmonious song to the living God."
I cordially greet the official delegations of various countries, the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and the lay faithful of the various diocesan communities and all those participating in the joy of the new members of the College of Cardinals, to whom they are linked by the bond of kinship, friendship, cooperation. The new cardinals, representing various dioceses of the world, are now joined in a special way to the Church of Rome and thus strengthen the spiritual bonds that unite the whole Church, enlivened by Christ and close around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, today's rite expresses the supreme value of fidelity. In fact, the oath that you will make presently, venerable Brothers, contains words laden with deep spiritual and ecclesial significance: "I promise and swear to remain, now and forever as long as I live, faithful to Christ and to his Gospel, constantly obedient the Holy Apostolic Roman Church." And when receiving the red beretta you will be reminded that it signifies "that you must be ready to act with fortitude, even to the shedding of blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquillity of the people of God." While the handing over of the ring will be accompanied by the warning: "Know that by your love for the Prince of the Apostles is your love for the Church strengthened."
Here is indicated, in these gestures and in the expressions that accompany them, the character that you are taking on today in the Church. From now on you will be even more closely and intimately united to the See of Peter: the titles or the deaconries of the churches of the City will remind you of the link that binds you, as very special members, to this Church of Rome, which presides over the universal charity. Especially through your collaboration with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, you will be my precious co-operators, primarily in the apostolic ministry for the entire catholicity, as Shepherd of the whole flock of Christ and primary guarantor of its doctrine, discipline and morality.
Dear friends, let us praise the Lord, who "with abundant gifts continues to enrich his Church throughout the world" (Prayer) and strengthens her in the eternal youth he has given her. To Him we entrust the new ecclesial service of these esteemed and venerable Brothers, so that they may render courageous witness to Christ, in the edifying dynamism of faith and in the sign of an incessant self-sacrificing love.