13 February 2015, The Tablet

Pope's mission: Church must not become closed, but go to margins

by Christopher Lamb in Rome

The Church must reject becoming a closed-off caste and instead be willing to serve the marginalised and those who have lost faith, Pope Francis said this morning. 

In an impassioned homily at a Mass celebrated with his new cardinals, the Pope said the Church needs to “leave her four walls” to go out and find those on the outskirts of life. 

The homily has already been described as a “mission statement” of Francis’ pontificate which has seen an emphasis on a Church of mercy that seeks to be on the margins or “peripheries”.

The Pope said: “There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost.”

Francis added that ecclesial thinking is at a crossroads between the “doctors of the law” who want to cast people out and the “thinking of God”, which is to stress mercy and reinstatement. 

“The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity [but] to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart,” he said during the homily in St Peter’s Basilica. “The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those on the ‘outskirts of life’.”

He went on to tell the new cardinals – who concelebrated the Mass today with him – to learn how to speak the right words to all those “considered incurable and hence untouchable”. In this way, the Pope told them, they will find ways of healing people and understand the “logic” of Jesus. 

Cardinals Dew and Bo“I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians – edified by our witness – will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it,” the Pope said. 

“I urge you to serve Jesus in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith or turned away from the practice of their faith; to see the Lord who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul – who encounters discrimination!”

He added: “We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalised!”  

Yesterday, he warned his new cardinals of the temptations to self-interest, jealousy and pent-up anger in a homily offered as a guiding reflection for their new ministry.  

Speaking on St Paul’s “hymn to charity” he stressed that those in Church governance need to have a “strong sense of justice” so that Catholics see in their leaders those willing to condemn any form of injustice along with service to the truth. 

The Pope yesterday created 20 new cardinals from across the world including in places that had never had them before such as Tonga, Myanmar, Panama and Cape Verde. 19 of the cardinals received their red hats in person from the Pope although one, Archbishop Emeritus of Manizales, José de Jesús Pimiento Rodriguez, who is 95, was not in attendance. 

Consistory 2015Francis described being a cardinal as an “honour but not an honorific” pointing out that the word cardinal comes from the latin word “cardo” which means hinge.

“It is a pivot, a point of support and movement essential for the life of the community,” the Pope said during the consistory ceremony. 

But he also said that charity must be the principle of their ministry, that they should be willing to show practical acts of kindness and be wary of inclinations to jealousy and pride. This meant, he added, willing the good of others “even those unfriendly to us.”

His homily, with its list of dangers for cardinals, was in a similar vein to the speech he gave to the Roman Curia at the end of last year which listed “15 diseases” that can afflict those that work in the Vatican. 

“Pastors close to their people have plenty of opportunities to be irritable, to feel anger,” he said. “Even here, charity, and charity alone frees us. It frees us from the risk of acting impulsively, of saying or doing the wrong thing; above all it frees us from the mortal danger of pent-up anger, of that smouldering anger which makes us brood over wrongs we have received. Even if a momentary outburst is forgivable, this not the case with rancour.”

The new cardinals must also be wary of becoming self-centred, the Pope said, and that even a self-centred person can dress up their “interests” as noble. 

As is tradition, cardinals become members of the clergy of Rome and Francis reflected on this fact by saying: “the more we are incardinated in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit, so that charity can give form and meaning to all that we are and all that we do.”

Those named to the college of cardinals include: 

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura 

Patriarch Manuel Macário do Nascimento Clemente, of Lisbon, Portugal 

Archbishop Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, Ethopia 

Archbishop John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand 

Archbishop Edourdo Menichelli of Ancona-Osima, Italy, 

Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, Vietnam 

Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar

Archbishop Francis Xavier Kovithavanij of Bangkok, Thailand

Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Argigento, Italy

Archbishop Daniel Sturla Berhouet, of Montevidea, Uruguay

Archbishop Ricardo Blazquéz Peréz, of Valladolid, Spain

Bishop Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, of David, Panama

Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado, of Cape Verde, Africa

Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga

Those over the age of 80:

Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, Pro-Major (Apostolic) Penitentiary Emeritus

Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, former Apostolic Nuncio

Archbishop Emeritus Luis Héctor Villalba of Tucumán, Argentina

Bishop Emeritus Julio Duarte Langa, of Xai-Xai, Mozambique


Top: Pope Francis at Sunday's Mass; above: new cardinals John Dew of Wellington and Charles Bo of Yangon, exchange the sign of peace as Vietnamese Cardinal Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon looks on. They had received the red hat a day earlier (pictured). Photos: CNS.

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