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Francis is pope of radical renewal, not reform – Nichols
19 February 2014 17:40 by Robert Mickens

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, said Pope Francis is bringing "radical renewal" to the Church rather than reform.

The Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster was giving his first press conference since Pope Francis gave him his red hat at a consistory on Saturday. 

In response to a question about Pope Francis’ attitude towards the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion, he said that the Pope was not a reformer.

"I've been asked a bit over the last few days how I would define the ... emerging papacy of Pope Francis and I would not use the word reform ... I would use the phrase radical renewal," he told journalists in Rome this morning.

He said the Pope was “radical” because he went to the heart of why the Church exists, to create missionary disciples.

He added that Catholicism’s strength now lay outside Europe.

Reflecting on the consistory he noted that only four of the 18 new cardinals were from Europe.

“[That] begins, I think, to make very clear where the strength of Catholicism lies."

On Saturday when Pope Francis created his first group of new cardinals his retired predecessor - Benedict XVI - attended the tradition-laden ceremony at which Westminster Archbishop Vincent Nichols received the red hat.

It was the first time the two popes have appeared together at a public church celebration since Francis was elected last March.

"I tell you what the Church needs - it needs you, your collaboration and, above all, your communion, communion with me and among yourselves," the Jesuit Pope told the 18 men to whom he gave the red hat in St Peter's Basilica. A nineteenth new cardinal - 98-year-old Loris Capovilla, former secretary to John XXIII - will get his hat in the coming days at his residence in northern Italy.

Francis told the new cardinals and some 150 other scarlet-robed prelates already in their exclusive College they must, by "works, desires and prayers, be men that invoke peace and reconciliation for people in our times that are suffering because of violence, exclusion and war".

Praying for Christians "suffering discrimination and persecution", he added: "We must fight against every discrimination!"

Benedict XVI, who has been living in a former convent inside the Vatican Gardens since last April, sat off to the side of the senior cardinals during the hour-long ceremony, wearing a long white coat and skull cap.

Pope Francis, dressed in a white cope and the simple mitre he wore regularly as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, told those present at the Liturgy of the Word service their strength and joy was in walking with Jesus.

The new cardinals, whose primary task will now be join others in the College of Cardinals under the age of 80 to eventually elect the next Pope, were each given a titular church in Rome. By symbolically becoming the "pastors" of these churches, they perpetuate the ancienct practice whereby the clergy (and people) of this diocese elected the Bishop of Rome.

Cardinal Nichols was given the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer and St Alphonsus on Via Merulana, site of the worldwide headquarters of the Redemptorist religous order.

Above: Pope Francis embraces Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Consistory on Saturday © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk