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Pope marks anniversary with clear message: I’m not going anywhere

27 June 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Francis and the cardinals returned this morning for a Mass to celebrate 25 years since the Pope’s ordination as a bishop

Moments after his election as Pope, Francis stepped into the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel. A throne had been set up for him to sit on while he prayed but instead he asked the two cardinals accompanying him to sit with him in the back pew. 

Eye witnesses have described a sort of mystical moment taking place at that time: after a few moments of silent prayer, he stood up and turned round to prepare to greet the world. 

“At that moment he’s a different person,” Vatican communications prefect Mgr Dario Vigano, who was filming the moment, said of the time. "It's as if God had said to him personally, 'Don't worry, I'm here with you.’ ”

It was to the Pauline Chapel that the Francis and the cardinals returned this morning (27 June) for a Mass to celebrate 25 years since the Pope’s ordination as a bishop. 

Today, in the same setting that inspired the 80-year-old Argentine Pontiff four years ago, the chapel saw an energised Pope delivering a homily with a clear message: despite my age, I’m not going anywhere. 

“When Abraham was called he was more or less our age: he was about to retire, to retire to rest, ”the Pope explained reflecting on the call of the great Old Testament patriarch. “Today the Lord says the same to us: ‘Rise! Look! Hope!’. He says now is not the time to close our life, to close our story, to summarise our story.”

Tomorrow, the Pope is due to make five new cardinals, those men who, providing they are under 80, will elect his successor. Many of those who make up the college of cardinals are like Abraham, beyond age of retirement, leading some to criticised them as an elderly and out of touch group.  

“Someone who doesn’t care for us says we are the gerontocracy of the Church,” the Pope explained. “We are not ‘gerentocrats’, we are grandfathers.”

He went on: “We are grandfathers called to dream and to give our dream to the young people of today.”

It was also this group of “grandfathers” who four years ago surprised the world by electing the first Latin American Pope: a figure who has energised and shaken up the Church while also becoming an important figure of wisdom on the world stage. 

But his approach has also upset some, including a group of cardinals who have gone public with their demands for him to clarify his moves to allow communion for the divorced and remarried. One of them, US Cardinal Raymond Burke, is even threatening to formally correct him. Cardinal Burke was present at the Mass today. 

At the beginning of the liturgy, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, 89-year-old Cardinal Angelo Sodano said: “My brother cardinals asked me to assure you of their closeness and prayers” and that there is “no need to repeat it, because in our hearts you [Francis] are already present.”

Also gathered in the small, intimate setting were also some of the Pope’s closest allies, such as Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the Franciscan priest. It was he who sat next to him during the 2013 conclave and, when it was clear Francis was about to be elected, turned to him and said: “Don’t forget the poor.” 

At the end of Mass, the Pope conclude with a few off the cuff comments. Forgive me, he told them, for my sins but please pray for perseverance.

Additional reporting: Daniele Palmer 

PICTURE: Pope Francis addresses around 50 cardinals as he celebrates Mass in the Pauline Chapel 



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