Cardinal Virtues

Pope Francis Charges New Cardinals to Reach Out to the Marginalized

Pope Francis issued a twofold command to 20 newly elevated cardinals last month: Go forth in charity, and reach out to the marginalized, reinstating them into the Church.

The new cardinals were elevated to the College of Cardinals at the ordinary public consistory for the creation of new cardinals on Feb. 14; 12 are under age 80 and are eligible to vote in a conclave. 

The nationalities and backgrounds of the new cardinals reflect the Holy Father’s wish to broaden and internationalize the college, moving away from traditional cardinalatial sees and centers of power and bringing in those from the global south, where the faith is growing fastest.

In his address in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father pointed out to the new recipients of the “red hat” that the higher one is honored the more perfect must be his exercise of charity.

“The more we are ‘incardinated’ in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit,” Francis explained, “so that charity can give form and meaning to all that we are and all that we do.” In the Church, he added, “all presiding flows from charity, must be exercised in charity and is ordered towards charity.”


Cardinals of Charity

Quoting from St. Paul, Francis explained the form and essence of charity: It is “patient” and “kind, “not jealous or boastful,” nor “puffed up with pride.” Church dignitaries, he pointed out, are not “immune from this temptation.” Charity is also “not arrogant or rude,” the Pope continued, adding that those who are self-centered “inevitably become disrespectful” and often don’t notice this, since respect leads to the ability to acknowledge others and their “dignity, their condition, their needs.” Continuing to quote from St. Paul, the Pope stressed that charity is not “irritable” nor “resentful,” but frees us from the “mortal danger of pent-up anger” that makes us “brood over wrongs we have received.” Such an attitude of “smoldering anger,” the Pope said, is “unacceptable” in a man of the Church.

He added that charity also doesn’t “rejoice in the wrong” but “rejoices in the right.” “What a beautiful phrase!” the Pope said. “The man of God is someone captivated by truth,” he said. Lastly, the Pope underlined what he sees as a “spiritual and pastoral program of life”: to recognize that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“God is love,” the Pope said in closing, “and he accomplishes all this in us if only we prove docile to the working of his Holy Spirit.”

The Pope’s address was well received by the newly elevated cardinals, three of whom head archdioceses in countries that have never had a prince of the Church in their history. Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Tonga’s first cardinal, told the Register he could not understand all of the Pope’s Italian, but he could “read his heart,” and he praised the Pope for “always giving fatherly guidance.”

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, especially welcomed the theme of charity, calling it “very inspiring.”

The only Curial official to be made cardinal, Dominique Mamberti, who heads the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, told the Register it was “a really extraordinary text,” in which the Pope spoke “from his heart to our hearts.” In his words of gratitude to Pope Francis on behalf of the new cardinals, Cardinal Mamberti said their elevation to the College of Cardinals encourages them “to unite ourselves more fully with Jesus” and to participate “more deeply and completely in his sacrifice, of being with him on the cross — which is our salvation, life and resurrection — and through which we are saved and liberated.”

Pope Francis’ more extensive homily, delivered to the new cardinals at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 15, was seen by many as giving a clear picture of his priorities. The Pope drew out “key concepts” from the day’s Gospel reading of Mark, in which Jesus heals the leper: “the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate” lives. Referring first to the word “compassion,” meaning “to suffer with,” he said Jesus drew near to every person in pain and was “unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others,” paying the price of it “in full.” Compassion, he added, leads to “concrete action” — the reinstatement of the marginalized.

Francis compared the leper to all those who suffer from sin, underlining they are not only victims of disease, but “feel guilty about it, punished for their sins.” Theirs is a “living death,” he said, cast out by society and like someone “whose father has spit in his face.” In addition, healthy people were punished severely for approaching a leper in order to “safeguard the healthy” and to “protect the righteous.”

Turning to the theme of reinstatement, the Pope said Jesus “revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality.” He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman caught in adultery, saving her from the “blind zeal” of those prepared to stone her. He shows, instead, “the logic of love, based not on fear, but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God.”

Jesus, the Pope said, “responds immediately” to the leper’s plea to be healed, “without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences.” He does not think of the “closed-minded, who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness.”

Francis pointed out 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.” The doctors of the Law, he continued, would remove the danger by “casting out the diseased person,” while those “thinking of God” remember his mercy, which “embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.”

The Church, the Pope added, “has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.” That does not mean “underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold,” he said, “but welcoming the prodigal son.” It means “rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.”

The Pope urged the new cardinals to seek “fearlessly” those who are marginalized, seeing the Lord in every person who is “hungry, thirsty, naked” and those who have “lost their faith or turned away from the practice of their faith.”

“We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized,” the Pope said, recommending imitation of St. Francis, who was “unafraid to embrace the leper and accept every kind of outcast.”



Humbled, Grateful, Obedient: New Cardinals React to Their Appointments

Some of the new cardinals spoke to the Register Feb. 14 about their new posts.

Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, the bishop of Tonga, who is shepherd of just 15,000 Catholics, said he was “delighted” and felt “so happy, so humbled” by Francis’ decision and that there is such a “strong sense of solidarity, especially coming from a little island so far away.”

Reflecting on the situation in Myanmar, newly elevated Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said the “main concern” is for “real freedom and democracy, especially reconciliation among all the different religions.”

“We need the reconciliation of different ethnic groups — reconciliation, and then peace will come, and, clearly, development will follow, too,” Cardinal Bo said. “Myanmar has so many rich resources, and the people are very nice, so if there’s goodwill among all the people, there’s a hope to proceed toward democracy.”

Asked how the government reacted to his appointment, Cardinal Bo said they “sent us letters and are happy.” He also said, “Buddhist monks as well as Muslims and Hindus and all people are happy.”

Cardinal John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, said his appointment was “wonderfully received,” and people were “very supportive and full of congratulations and prayers.” He said he has been “overwhelmed by the incredible support.” He said the Pope’s words to the new cardinals were “wonderful.” Francis, he said, is “just so sure about what he says, and there’s always so much material for prayer and reflection, which I will need to do.”

Asked for his reaction to his appointment, Cardinal Luigi De Magistris, who, at 89, is one of the most senior of the new cardinals, said: “I obey the Pope. I obey with an open heart, even now, as he wanted to honor me in this way.” Cardinal De Magistris served as pro-major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary from 2001 to 2003. From 1959 to 1969, a period which included the Second Vatican Council, he served in the Holy Office, now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The only serving Curial cardinal appointed was Moroccan Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He told the Register he was “full of gratitude to the Holy Father for this appointment,” adding, “It’s a great responsibility — an honor, but also a great responsibility.”

               — Edward Pentin