VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, Pope Francis created five new cardinals, encouraging them to walk with Jesus, keeping their eyes fixed securely on the cross and on the realities of the world, not becoming distracted by prestige or honor.
“I speak above all to you, dear new cardinals. Jesus ‘is walking ahead of you,’ and he asks you to follow him resolutely on his way. He calls you to look at reality, not to let yourselves be distracted by other interests or prospects,” the Pope said June 28.
“He has not called you to become ‘princes’ of the Church, to ‘sit at his right or at his left.’ He calls you to serve like him and with him — to serve the Father and your brothers and sisters. He calls you to face as he did the sin of the world and its effects on today’s humanity. Follow him, and walk ahead of the holy people of God, with your gaze fixed on the Lord’s cross and resurrection.”
Pope Francis addressed the five bishops he chose to receive a red hat last month, and others present, during an ordinary consistory for the creation of new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.
He had announced his intention to create the new cardinals during a Regina Caeli address on May 21.
Immediately following a reading from the Gospel of Matthew and his short reflection, the Pope made the proclamation creating the new cardinals. Afterward, they received their red biretta and cardinal’s ring. At this time they were also assigned a titular church, tying them to Rome.
In his choice of cardinals, Pope Francis has remained true to his vision of a broader, more universal representation of the Church, forged during his last consistory, Nov. 19, 2016, where he created 17 new cardinals from 11 different nations and five different continents.
Among this consistory’s picks are Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, and apostolic administrator of Vientiane, and Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali.
All three are the first cardinals from their respective countries.
Also noteworthy is his appointment of San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop, José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, marking the first time the Pope has tapped an auxiliary as cardinal.
Bishop Chávez was chosen over his archbishop, Jose Luis Escobar Alas, for the red hat, showing that Francis, as seen in his previous appointments, is willing to skip over “cardinal sees.”
In contrast to the other four is Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain. His red hat is not a dramatic departure from tradition, as Barcelona is traditionally a see with a cardinal, and Archbishop Omella’s predecessor, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, turned 80 on April 29.
All of the new cardinals are under 80 and therefore eligible to vote in the next conclave.
In his homily, Francis reflected on the Gospel heard during the ceremony, which came from Matthew 10:32-45. In the passage, Jesus and the disciples are walking toward Jerusalem. This is when the third prediction of the Passion of Christ happens, which is nearing.
“‘Jesus was walking ahead of them.’ This is the picture that the Gospel we have just read presents to us. It serves as a backdrop to the act now taking place: this consistory for the creation of new cardinals,” he said.
Jesus walks ahead of them with full knowledge of what is going to take place in Jerusalem, but at this moment, there is a divide, a distance, between his heart and the hearts of his disciples, which only the Holy Spirit can bridge, Francis said.
He knows this and is patient with them. “Above all, he goes before them. He walks ahead of them,” Francis said.
Along the way, the disciples become distracted by things which have nothing to do with what Jesus is preparing to do or with the will of the Father.
“They are not facing reality! They think they see, but they don’t. They think they know, but they don’t. They think they understand better than the others, but they don’t,” the Pope exclaimed.
“For the reality is completely different. It is what Jesus sees and what directs his steps. The reality is the cross.”
This reality, Francis continued, is the sin of the world, which the Lord came to take upon himself and to “uproot from the world of men and women.”
The reality of sin is manifest in the world in the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism and in the many forms of human slavery that exist, he said. It’s found also in refugee camps, which are more like hell than purgatory, and it’s in the discarding of people and things that society doesn’t find useful.
“This,” he said, “is what Jesus sees as he walks towards Jerusalem.”
“During his public ministry, he made known the Father’s tender love by healing all who were oppressed by the evil one (Acts 10:38). Now he realizes that the moment has come to press on to the very end, to eliminate evil at its root. And so, he walks resolutely towards the cross.”
“We, too, dear brothers and sisters, are journeying with Jesus along this path,” he said.
“And now,” he concluded, “with faith and through the intercession of the Virgin Mother, let us ask the Holy Spirit to bridge every gap between our hearts and the heart of Christ, so that our lives may be completely at the service of God and all our brothers and sisters.”
After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals will stop by the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to pay a visit to Benedict XVI, who was not present at the ceremony.
As is customary, the cardinals will then proceed to the atrium of the Pope Paul VI hall, where they are formally greeted and congratulated.
The new cardinals will also concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patrons of Rome. At the Mass, the Pope will also bestow the pallia on the new metropolitan archbishops appointed during the last year.
The consistory was the fourth of Pope Francis’ pontificate. With the five new cardinals included, the number of voting cardinals comes to 121, and the number of non-voters to 104, for a grand total of 225.