VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II handed out rings to 30 new cardinals, reminding them that the bands symbolized their pastoral zeal and firmer communion with Rome.
Exhausted after a week of celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of his pontificate, the Pope himself pronounced some of the liturgical prayers during a Mass today in St. Peter’s Basilica concelebrated with the new cardinals. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, was the main celebrant.
Despite difficulties in pronunciation, the Holy Father read the formula in Latin when giving the new cardinals their rings, saying: “Receive the ring, sign of dignity, of pastoral zeal, and of a firmer communion with the See of Peter.”
“Receive the ring from the hand of Peter and be conscious that in loving the Prince of the Apostles your love for the Church is reinforced,” he added.
Then each of the cardinals went up to the Pontiff to receive his special ring. John Paul II seemed especially happy when he faced Cardinal Gustaaf Joos, his friend from their student days in Rome after World War II. The cardinal, who is a theologian and parish priest in a Belgian Flemish town, embraced the friend of his youth.
The celebration was moved into the basilica because of incessant rain. The Pope’s homily was read integrally by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for general affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The Holy Father in the homily said that “according to an old tradition” the “Successor of Peter makes use in a particular way of the collaboration of the cardinals.” He added that in “their college is reflected the universality of the Church, the one People of God living in a multiplicity of nations.”
John Paul II acknowledged “the valuable help that you give me” and reminded them that the ring “is a symbol of the renewed bond with which you are united to the Church and to the Pope, her visible head.”
As the Bishop of Rome had done a day earlier at the consistory to install the cardinals, in this ceremony he emphasized that the deep red color of the cardinals’ biretta symbolizes their readiness to spill their blood for Christ and his Church.
“Jesus announced clearly that the persecution of the apostles and of their successors would not be an extraordinary event,” he said. “If at times one is overcome by fear and discouragement, may the consoling promise of the divine Master be of comfort: “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!'”
At the Prayer of the Faithful, petitions were recited in Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese, Arabic, Hindi and Polish.
Over the next few months the cardinals will take possession of the churches in Rome assigned to them by the Pope. The churches symbolize the cardinals’ participation in the clergy of Rome.
The Mass brought to a close the ninth consistory of this pontificate. The College of Cardinals is now composed of 194 cardinals, plus one whose identity is secret; 135 are eligible to elect the future pope since they are under 80 years of age.