Pope Francis to New Cardinals: This Is a Church, Not a Royal Court

At a consistory attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict, the Holy Father gave the red biretta to the 19 newest members of the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti receives his biretta from Pope Francis during a consistory at St. Peter's Basilica on Feb. 22.
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti receives his biretta from Pope Francis during a consistory at St. Peter's Basilica on Feb. 22. (photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis used his homily at a Mass for new cardinals to hold up a vision of holiness for the 19 new recipients of the red biretta, exhorting them to be docile to the Holy Spirit, to love their enemies and to answer the call to conversion.

During the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, he also stressed that each member of the College of Cardinals enters the Church of Rome rather than a royal court.

“A cardinal — I say this especially to you — enters the Church of Rome, my brothers, not a royal court,” the Holy Father told a packed basilica. “May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism and partiality.”

He said their language should be that of the Gospel: Yes when we mean Yes and No when we mean No — and that their attitudes should be “those of the beatitudes and our way be that of holiness.”

“Let us pray once more: ‘Merciful Father, by your help, may we be ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit. All of us want to listen to the voice of the Spirit,” the Pope said.

Stressing that without the Holy Spirit all of our efforts are in vain, he exhorted the new cardinals to “make the effort to be converted, to experience a heartfelt conversion.” This is something that “all of us — especially you cardinals and myself — must do,” he said. “Conversion!”

Referring to the day’s Gospel reading from the Book of Matthew, Pope Francis reminded them to love their enemies and to “seek generously to do good to them.”


‘The Quicksand of Sin’

“My brother cardinals, Jesus did not come to teach us good manners, how to behave well at the table,” he said. “To do that, he would not have had to come down from heaven and die on the cross. Christ came to save us, to show us the way, the only way out of the quicksand of sin and this way of holiness is mercy, that mercy which he has shown and daily continues to show to us.”

“To be a saint is not a luxury,” the Pope added. “It is necessary for the salvation of the world. This is what the Lord is asking of us.”

He stressed that Christians “do not aim to assert ourselves,” but, rather, “oppose arrogance with meekness” and “forget the humiliations that we have endured.” Guided by the Spirit of Christ, he urged the cardinals to be “channels” through which his charity might flow.

“This is the attitude of a cardinal; this must be how he acts,” he said.

The Pope also stressed the importance of “goodness, forgiveness, service” and not to neglect duties towards one’s neighbor. He urged the cardinals not to shut out their brothers or sisters, for then it is God himself who is not being welcomed.

“A heart without love is like a deconsecrated church, a building withdrawn from God’s service and given over to another use,” he said.

He closed by calling for unity in Christ and among themselves, and he implored the Holy Spirit, that they may be “ever more fervent in pastoral charity and filled with holiness.”


Always Bear Witness to the Truth

The Pope shared further instructions to the cardinals during the ordinary public consistory on Saturday, urging them not to conform themselves to a worldly mentality but instead to be courageous in proclaiming the Gospel and bearing witness to the truth at all times.

Following the thinking of the world results in “rivalry, jealousy, factions,” the Pope said, but the word of Jesus “purifies us inwardly” and enlightens our consciences “to unite ourselves fully with Jesus.”

As in his Mass homily the next day, he urged the cardinals to allow themselves to be taught by the Holy Spirit and be united in Christ. He also underlined how much the Church needs the cardinals’ cooperation, communion and gifts.

“The Church needs your courage, to proclaim the Gospel at all times, both in season and out of season, and to bear witness to the truth,” the Pope said. “The Church needs your prayer for the progress of Christ’s flock, the prayer that, together with the proclamation of the Word, is the primary task of the bishop.

“The Church needs your compassion, especially at this time of pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world. We want to express our spiritual closeness to the ecclesial communities and to all Christians suffering from discrimination and persecution.

“The Church needs our prayer for them,” he continued, “that they may be firm in faith and capable of responding to evil with good. And this prayer of ours extends to every man and woman suffering injustice on account of their religious convictions.”

Finally, he said the Church “needs us also to be peacemakers, building peace by our words, our hopes and our prayers: Let us therefore invoke peace and reconciliation for those peoples presently experiencing violence and war.”


Surprise Presence

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI surprised many by also being present at the consistory. Pope Francis warmly embraced his predecessor, who was seated not far from the new cardinals.

Some have speculated whether Benedict XVI will attend the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27. His presence at Saturday’s consistory has certainly increased the probability that he will.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.