Pope Francis tells new cardinals to be models of love, not brooding schemers

c. 2015 Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Saturday (Feb. 14) added 20 new members to the College of Cardinals, warning the newly-minted “princes of the church” from around the globe not to let their new red hats go to their heads.

Rather than seeing themselves as a priestly elite maneuvering among themselves, Francis said, the cardinals should be models of love and humility.

Above all, he said, they should avoid “that smoldering anger which makes us brood over wrongs we have received.”

“No! This is unacceptable in a man of the church,” Francis warned the new cardinals arrayed before him in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Even if a momentary outburst is forgiveable, this is not the case with rancor. God save us from that!”

Francis seemed to be acting as both a spiritual director and a psychologist for the churchmen as he analyzed the perils of clerical privilege. He also probed how the cardinals — who he chose precisely because they represent the furthest margins of the church — can avoid the very sins and attitudes that he wants to purge from the dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy.

In the week running up to this official installation, Francis held meetings with senior cardinals from around the world who advise him, as well as with the entire College of Cardinals, in an attempt to push ahead with his efforts overhaul the Roman Curia.

At the same time, he wants them to help him chart a new, reformist course for the Catholic Church around the world.

Nineteen of the 20 new cardinals took part in some of those meetings; one of them, a 95-year-old prelate from Colombia, was unable to make the trip.

The others hail from countries as far away as New Zealand and from an Italian diocese in Sicily at the front lines of the refugee crisis.

Francis also picked cardinals for the first time from four countries that are considered well outside the traditional corridors of church power: Myanmar, Cape Verde, Panama and the Pacific archipelago of Tonga, which has just 15,000 Catholics out of a population of 100,000 spread across 176 islands.

“The cardinalate is certainly an honor, but it is not an honorific,” Francis told the new cardinals before each of them swore an oath of fidelity to the pontiff and the church.

They then knelt before the pope while he placed the distinctive red biretta on their heads. (One of them, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Ethiopia, received a different type of cap to conform with the style of his church’s ancient rites.)

The new cardinals were flanked by some 150 other cardinals, with a special front-row seat reserved for 87-year-old Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who wore a simple white cassock for one of the rare public appearances he has made since resigning the papacy two years ago.

They were all joined in the cavernous basilica by bishops and priests and thousands of pilgrims who had traveled from countries like Thailand and Vietnam, each of which was given a new cardinal.

The title means that the men — all bishops and archbishops — joined the select ranks of the College of Cardinals and will serve as top advisors to the pontiff.

Fifteen of the 20 new cardinals are under the age of 80, and are eligible to join 110 other cardinal-electors to enter a conclave to vote for a new pope if Francis, 78, retires or dies.

There are now a total of 227 cardinals from 73 countries. In two years, Francis has appointed 31 of the 125 cardinal-electors, who come from 59 countries.

Church policy limits the number of electors to 120, but popes often exceed that by a few to account for cardinals who will soon be turning 80. Francis has yet to name any U.S. cardinals, though that is likely to change in the coming year.

The perks of the rank are impressive, but in his remarks Francis cautioned them that becoming a cardinal, which brings the right to wear eye-catching scarlet vestments, “is not a kind of accessory, a decoration.”

Rather, he said, it is about serving as a model of Christian charity.

“The greater our responsibility in serving the church, the more our hearts must expand according to the measure of the heart of Christ,” said Francis, who took as his guiding text the well-known passage from the New Testament in which the Apostle Paul writes about love as “always patient and kind,” and “never boastful or conceited.”

“All of us, myself first and each of you with me, would do well to let ourselves be guided by the inspired words of the apostle Paul,” Francis said.

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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George Nixon Shuler

It’s certainly refreshing how liberal Mainliners and nontheists are finding themselves pleased with at least 75% of his pronouncements. Oh, he walks it back a spell when the voices of the Inquisition get raised – but the positives by far outweigh the negatives. His immediate predecessors having been so terrible, though (excepting John Paul ! who only served one month), how could it be otherwise? The successful rebranding of Christianity developed by not just the Protestant fundamentalists but the extremists in the RCC membership can change to one of extremism and hatred to one more in line with Christ’s radical… Read more »

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