Papal Homily at Consistory

Urges Cardinals to Be Faithful to ‘Sacrificing Their Lives’

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2003 ( Below is a translation of the homily John Paul II delivered today at the consistory for the installation of new cardinals. It was read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for general affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

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Venerable and Dear Brothers!

1. Today’s meeting constitutes one more moment of grace in these particularly intense days of ecclesial events. In the course of the present consistory, I have the joy of conferring the cardinal’s biretta on 30 meritorious ecclesiastics, reserving «in pectore» the name of another. Some of these are my close collaborators in the Roman Curia; others carry out their ministry in venerable Churches of old tradition or recent foundation; still others have distinguished themselves in the study and defense of Catholic doctrine and in ecumenical dialogue.

To each and all I express my cordial greeting. In a special way, I greet Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran and thank him for the thoughtful words he addressed to me on behalf of all those added to the College of Cardinals today. I also greet with affection the lord cardinals, venerable patriarchs, bishops, priests, men and women religious, and faithful from every part of the world who have come to be with all those who today are elevated to the dignity of cardinal.

As was earlier emphasized, today in this square shines the Church of Christ, old and ever new, gathered around the Successor of Peter.

2. Enriched by new members, the College of Cardinals — reflecting still further the multiplicity of races and cultures that characterizes the Christian people — highlights once again the unity of every section of the flock of Christ with the chair of the Bishop of Rome.

You, venerable brother cardinals, by the «title» given you, belong to the clergy of this city, of which the Successor of Peter is Bishop. In this way, on one hand, you extend, in a certain sense, the ecclesial community that is in Rome to the utmost ends of the earth and, on the other, you make the universal Church present in it. Thus is expressed the very nature of the Mystical Body of Christ, the family of God which includes peoples and nations everywhere, embracing them in the bond of one faith and charity. And it is Peter who is the visible foundation of this communion. In carrying out his ministry, the Successor of the Fisherman of Galilee counts on your faithful collaboration; he asks you to support him with prayer, while he invokes the Holy Spirit so that the communion will never weaken among all those the Lord «has chosen Vicars of his Son and has constituted pastors» (Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I).

3. The deep red of the cardinal’s clothing evokes the color of blood and calls for the heroism of martyrs. It is the symbol of a love for Jesus and for his Church that knows no limits: love to the point of sacrificing one’s life, «usque ad sanguinis effusionem.»

Great, therefore, is the gift that has been made to you, and just as great is the responsibility it entails. The Apostle Peter, in his First Letter, recalls the fundamental tasks of every Pastor: «Tend the flock of God that is your charge,» he says, «being examples to the flock» (1 Peter 5:1-2). One should preach by word and example, as also highlighted in the postsynodal apostolic exhortation «Pastores Gregis,» which I signed last Thursday in the presence of so many of you. If this is true for every pastor, it is still more true for you, dear and venerable members of the College of Cardinals.

4. On the evangelical page just proclaimed Jesus indicates, with his example, how to fulfill this mission. «Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all» (Mark 10:44). Only after his death, however, did the apostles understand the full meaning of these words and, with the help of the Spirit, were able to accept in its totality this demanding «logic.»

The Redeemer continues to indicate this same program to those whom he associates to his own mission in a closer manner with the sacrament of (holy) orders. He asks them to be converted to this «logic» of his, in clear contrast to that of the world: to die to oneself, to be a humble and selfless servant of one’s brothers, fleeing every temptation to careerism or personal benefit.

5. Dear and venerable brothers, only if you make yourselves servants of all will you fulfill your mission and help the Successor of Peter to be, in turn, the «servant of the servants of God,» as my holy predecessor Gregory the Great liked to describe himself.

It is certainly an ideal that is difficult to realize, but the Good Shepherd assures us of his support. We can count, moreover, on the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, columns and foundation of the Christian people.

As for me, I renew to you the expression of my appreciation and I support you with a constant remembrance in prayer. May God grant you to spend your whole lives for souls, in the different mansions that he entrusts to you.

With affection, I impart my blessing to all.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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