Exactly one month after Pope Francis was elected, he appointed a Council of cardinals from all over the world to assist him in governing the Church and in carrying out a clearly needed reform of the Roman Curia. This demanding and challenging task - in a world subject to so many rapid changes, as Benedict xvi had noted in the declaration whereby he renounced the papacy - was undertaken without delay.
And now, just prior to the end of the first year of his pontificate, the Bishop of Rome has created his first cardinals and has established a Council and Secetariat for the Economy. These men and these structures will assist the Pope and his collaborators in the work of renewal. It will be carried out in a manner characteristic of the Roman Curia, i.e., in the collegiality that was revived by the Second Vatican Council and which has increasingly developed over the half century which followed.
This collegial method would also seem to be suggested by the fact that the Pope’s first creation of cardinals, as well as his issuing of a document establishing bodies to oversee economic affairs - itself the fruit of an arduous collegial act - were both preceded by a special Consistory at which the majority of cardinals participated. And all this in the context of a feast as significant as the Chair of St Peter.
The Bishop of Rome has given us the key to interpreting these decisions that will impact the entire Church. The call is to service, he said at Sunday’s Angelus, “for the vocation of the bishop, cardinal and pope is precisely this: to be a servant, to serve in the name of Christ”. In short, summing it up effectively, as always: to be “good servants, not good masters” in order “to meet the expectations and spiritual needs of the men and women of our time”.
In his homily at Mass on Sunday with the newly created Cardinals, the Bishop of Rome explained the Gospel in terms of holiness: “To be a saint is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world”. Addressing himself especially to the new cardinals, he reminded them that a cardinal enters the Church of Rome, not a royal court. “May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality”.
Paul vi abolished the papal court shortly after the Council. And yet the need for renewal is continual and deep. Faith, in fact, is a “way” - we find this description in the most ancient Christian texts - not “a philosophy, an ideology”, Pope Francis said. It is “a journey to be undertaken with him”; indeed, behind him on the way of the Cross. This way is not easy, or comfortable; it is obstructed by the mentality of the world, but “Jesus is walking ahead of us”.
The Bishop of Rome encouraged the new Cardinals - and more generally, everyone - to walk along this way of Christ. “To walk”, he recalled, was the first word that the Lord proposed at the Mass he celebrated in the Sistine Chapel with the cardinals who had just elected him. And on this path we must proceed.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 15, 2019
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