by Katie Daniels
In front of emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and others gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis created twenty new cardinals in a ceremony on February 14th. Of those inducted, 15 will be able to vote in the next papal election.
Three of the newly elected cardinals, hailing from Tonga, Myanmar, and Cape Verde, are the first cardinals from their countries. The choice reflects more than just the diversity of the Catholic Church. In an interview with the Catholic news service Crux, Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, of Valladolid, Spain, stated that Francis purposefully chose “concrete people.”
“He’s calling the Church to tend to the most complicated situations of humanity and also to remember so many countries that have suffered much, even by being neglected or forgotten. The youngest
man Francis chose comes from Tonga! Many don’t even know that Tonga is a country.”
Even as the new cardinals donned their red birettas, Francis emphasized the importance of charity. “The cardinalate is certainly an honor, but it is not honorific,” he said, addressing the prelates. He connected the cardinal’s role within the Church to the importance of charity.
“The more we are ‘incardinated’ in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit, so that charity can give form and meaning to all that we are and all that we do.”
He explained that even though the Church leadership is grounded in charity, even these leaders are not immune from envy or pride. Here, Francis said, “Charity, and charity alone, frees us.”
“Above all, it frees us from the mortal danger of pent-up anger, of that smoldering anger which makes us brood over wrongs we have received. No. This is unacceptable in a man of the Church.”
In his homily, Francis spoke to the gathered congregation about Jesus’ compassion in Mark’s Gospel. When a leper asks to be “made clean,” Jesus heals the man and brings him back into society even though his action meant Jesus would become ostracized himself. Francis observed that, “Jesus revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow, and prejudiced mentality. He does not abolish the law of Moses, but rather brings it to fulfillment.”
Jesus, and therefore the Church, seeks to “reinstate the outcast… not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock on our door, but to go out and to seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant.”
“Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honor… Truly the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is found and revealed!”