Thousands gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica today for the “Missa Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice” (Mass Before the Election of the Roman Pontiff). Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, presided over the Mass, which was concelebrated by the Cardinals, both electors and non-electors.
“‘Forever I will sing the mercies of the Lord’ is the hymn that resounds once again near the tomb of the Apostle Peter in this important hour of the history of the Holy Church of Christ,” Cardinal Sodano said at the start of his homily.
Cardinal Sodano began thanking God and expressing his gratitude for the “brilliant Pontificate” of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The cardinal’s statement was met with prolonged applause by all gathered.
Remembering the words of Christ, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her”, the Dean of the College of Cardinals prayed that God would grant another Good Shepherd to lead the Church.
Mission of Love and Mercy
Contemplating on the first reading from Isaiah, Cardinal Sodano said that the fulfillment of the prophecy in Jesus Christ of the coming of the Messiah was manifestation of God’s love for his people. “It is a love”, he said, “which is especially felt in contact with suffering, injustice, poverty and all human frailty, both physical and moral.”
“This mission of mercy has been entrusted by Christ to the pastors of his Church. It is a mission that must be embraced by every priest and bishop, but is especially entrusted to the Bishop of Rome, Shepherd of the universal Church.”
Cardinal Sodano also said that it is that same love that urges the Pastors of the Church to serve all people from those who do charitable work to the highest form of service: “of offering to every person the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace.”
The Mission of the Roman Pontiff
The Gospel read during the Mass recalled Christ’s commandment: “That you love one another as I have loved you”, which, Cardinal Sodano said, reminds “us that the fundamental attitude of the Pastors of the Church is love.”
“The basic attitude of every Shepherd is therefore to lay down one’s life for his sheep. This also applies to the Successor of Peter, Pastor of the Universal Church,” he said.
“As high and universal the pastoral office, so much greater must be the charity of the Shepherd. In the heart of every Successor of Peter, the words spoken one day by the Divine Master to the humble fisherman of Galilee have resounded: “Diligis me plus his? Pasce agnos meos… pasce oves meas”; “Do you love me more than these? Feed my lambs… feed my sheep!”
Recalling the words of the Benedict XVI in his encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”, the Dean of the College of Cardinals stated that the service of charity is part of the “intimate nature of the Church”, saying that the mission of charity is proper not only to the universal Church, but in a particular way to the Church in Rome.
Cardinal Sodano concluded his homily calling on those present to pray ”that the Lord will grant us a Pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart.”