The Color Red
John Paul II said Feb. 25 that the Church needs the example of martyrs in order to be faithful to its mission. And the ones who should be willing to embody this supreme example of love for Christ are the 44 newly created cardinals, he added.
Addressing the 10,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square before the midday Angelus, John Paul II posed the question: “How can the Church be faithful to her vocation, at a time in which the dominant culture seems not infrequently to go against the demanding logic of the Gospel?”
The Pope answered this question by alluding to the “red color of the cardinals' habit.”
The complete remarks follow.
Dearest Brothers and Sisters!
The recent consistory for the creation of 44 new cardinals, just a few weeks after the conclusion of the Holy Year, will certainly remain memorable in the annals of the Church.
I wish to dwell once again on this event and its meaning, which affects not only the new cardinals and the ecclesial community from which they come, but the whole family of God and its mission in today's world.
A breath of new hope seems to have invaded Christian people. In the course of the Jubilee and also in these days, the invitation to look to the future has resounded powerfully.
The Church looks ahead, and wishes to go “out to sea,” inspired by the spiritual dynamism awakened within it by the Jubilee experience. This dynamism cannot but consolidate and enrich the elements that belong, so to speak, to the genetic code of the ecclesial community: its unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity.
The increase of the college of cardinals, while evidencing the unity of the ecclesial body around Peter's successor, underlines the Catholic dimension, reflected in the cardinals' place of origin, from all parts of the world.
One might ask: How can the Church be faithful to her vocation, at a time in which the dominant culture seems not infrequently to go against the demanding logic of the Gospel?
This question is answered, in symbolic terms, by the red color of the cardinals' habit. As is known, [red] recalls the blood of martyrs, witnesses of Christ to the point of the supreme sacrifice.
Cardinals must make visible with their life a love of Christ that does not cease, no matter what the sacrifice. Their example will be an encouragement for all Christians to serve the divine master generously, regarding themselves as living members of his one mystical Body, which is the Church.
The necessary condition for the fulfillment of this commitment is the assiduous contemplation of the face of the Lord. I wrote this in the apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” and I have been able to confirm it many times.
In fact, if there is less hearing of the word of God, if there is a weakening of prayer and interior contact with the Lord, it is easy to fall into a sterile activism, which constitutes a risk that unfortunately is not rare, especially in our days.
Let us invoke, for the new cardinals, the special assistance of Mary, Mother of the Church.
Reciting the Angelus together, let us ask her to obtain for all believers a generous impulse of more convinced and faithful witness to the Gospel.
- March 11-17,2001