By Luca Marcolivio
ROME, FEB. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- For newly created Cardinal Giuseppe Betori it was somewhat like a return home. When he was elevated to the rank of cardinal, the archbishop of Florence met with the press in the national headquarters of Catholic Action, on via della Conciliazione in Rome.
During his childhood in Catholic Action, the future cardinal followed the course of formation of boys, in the three stages called “white flame,” “green flame” and, finally, “red flame.” “As you can see, the red flame never abandoned me,” joked Cardinal Betori, showing journalists the cardinal’s biretta he had just received.
“In that seed sown by Catholic Action, my priestly vocation was born. A journey that today has seen a further stage which the Holy Father reserved for me,” continued the archbishop of Florence.
The day of prayer and preparation for the Consistory, held on Friday, was described by the new cardinal as a “moment of very frank and very beautiful sharing,” whose object was the respective “experiences in the local Churches” of new cardinals.
Moreover, the cardinal of Florence said that the moment of sharing was like a “consoling” passage, because it made a Church emerge that is “much more open and full of hope and joy than what might appear” to public opinion and the media.
A Church built up in each locality and at the same time universal, in which “the outbursts of generosity have always coexisted with men’s sins” and which “reflects the Spirit of God, despite the pettiness of men and the trials of the times in which we find ourselves living.”
The titular church entrusted by the Holy Father to Cardinal Betori is that of San Marcello al Corso, dating back to 304, hence one of the oldest among the titles that “make the history of the cardinalship.” It is a church linked to the history of Florence, being of the Servants of Mary, an Order that marks “one of the most significant pages of Florentine Medieval times,” commented the archbishop.
Moreover, the prelate appreciated the affection of ordinary Florentines for their bishop “be it for my person or for the institutional figure.” An affection perceived especially “in a heightened way” on the occasion of a physical attack last Nov. 4, in which the archbishop was unharmed.
Replying to a question from ZENIT on the role of bishops in modern society and, in particular in the context of the new evangelization, Cardinal Betori hoped that the successors of the Apostles will assume “a greater missionary drive.”
“If a bishop of the past could think of caring for souls through the management of the pastoral organization, and believe that he could exhaust his role here, today, the variety of situations does not allow us to limit ourselves any longer to verifying what is,” explained the archbishop of Florence.
“When the servant of God, my predecessor, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, made pastoral visits, he concentrated especially on checking the catechesis of children, something necessary still today but not such as to be the limit of the role of a bishop.”
Cardinal Betori explained that his appointment as cardinal “does not change the ontology of my service, which was given with my episcopal nomination.” For a bishop to become cardinal means, however, to “reinforce the bond with the See of Peter, or with Rome.”
In fact, no diocese can subsist “without the bond with the Successor of Peter and with his Magisterium. Moreover, the bonds between Rome and Florence, have always been close throughout the centuries, despite their ups and downs.” Cardinal Betori pointed out, as an example of this bond, the Servant of God Giorgio La Pira, mayor of the Tuscan capital.