Disloyalty in the Church is rooted in a lack of compassion and indifference, Pope Francis said as he made 13 new cardinals in St Peter’s Basilica.
The 82-year-old Roman Pontiff, who has faced unprecedented public opposition to his ministry from some high ranking prelates, argued that without a “lively awareness” of God’s compassion, disloyalty to “our own ministry” seeps in.
“The readiness of a cardinal to shed his own blood – as signified by the colour of your robes – is secure if it is rooted in this awareness of having been shown compassion and in the ability to show compassion in return. Otherwise, we cannot be loyal,” the Pope told the men he would elevate to the highest ranks in the Church.
“So many disloyal actions on the part of ecclesiastics are born of the lack of a sense of having been shown compassion, and by the habit of averting one’s gaze, the habit of indifference.”
The consistory ceremony to make the new cardinals took place the day before the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, which has been criticised by cardinals such as Raymond Burke, the Patron of the Order of Malta, and Gerhard Müller, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Throughout his papacy, Francis has faced criticism from a small but powerful grow of conservatives in the Church, which have supporters in parts of the Roman Curia. Cardinal Burke and another retired cardinal have submitted a series of challenges to him about his family life teaching and threatened to issue a formal correction.
The Pope has said he welcomes criticism but as the opposition has become more vocal, he has also warned against those who throw stones but “hide” their hands, and who don’t criticise constructively but work to undermine his pontificate.
In his 5 October homily, the Pope diagnosed the problems in the Church as down to a compassion deficit. He said unless the cardinals can “feel” the loving compassion of God, then they will be unable to bear witness to it.
“In the Gospels, we often see Jesus’ compassion for those who are suffering,” the Pope said. “He is a compassionate redeemer.”
He went on: “Are we conscious – we, in the first place – of having been the object of God’s compassion? In a particular way, I ask this of you, brother cardinals and those about to become cardinals: do you have a lively awareness of having been preceded and accompanied by his mercy?”
The challenges by cardinals to Francis are unusual given the oath of loyalty and obedience that cardinals make to the pope.
Following his homily, each of the 13 new Princes of the Church pledged to be "constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff” and then went up to the Pope, kneeling as he placed the red biretta on their heads.
This consistory, the Pope’s sixth, saw him create cardinals who share his vision of a compassionate, pastoral Church in dialogue with the world, and include three Jesuits.
Among them were his British Archbishop, Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, 82, the former leader of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and papal ambassador to Egypt. He is now working on interfaith relations in Liverpool.
Also receiving the red hat today was Jesuit, Cardinal Michael Czerny, who works in the Holy See's migrants' office and has chosen a pectoral cross made out of wood from a boat landing in Lampedusa, and Jean-Claude Hollerich, another Jesuit, who is the Archbishop of Luxembourg and a former missionary in Japan.
Throughout his pontificate, Francis has sought to reshape the college of cardinals, and make it more representative of the universal Church and less Euro-centric. He has chosen more than 50 per cent of those who will elect his successors, with 61 of the 128 cardinal electors coming from the developing world.
After the ceremony the new cardinals met Benedict XVI and received his blessing. According to a Vatican statement, Benedict reminded them of the “value of fidelity to the Pope”.