Compassion and loyalty are two essential qualities for a cardinal, Pope Francis stated in St. Peter’s Basilica today as he created 13 new cardinals, 10 of them with a right to vote in the conclave to elect his successor. He emphasized the intimate link between being compassionate and “the ability to be loyal in one’s ministry.”
He made clear in his homily that this was a message not only for those 13 new cardinals from 11 countries, dressed for the first time in their scarlet robes, but for the entire college of cardinals, most of whom were in the basilica for this colorful ceremony.
The new cardinals are: Álvaro Ramazzini Imeri of Guatemala; Cristóbal López Romero, S.D.B., of Spain; Eugenio dal Corso, P.S.D.P., of Italy; Fridolin Besungu, O.F.M. CAP, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Indonesia; Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., of Luxembourg; José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça of Portugal; Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez of Cuba; Matteo Zuppi of Italy; Michael Czerny, S.J., of Czechoslovakia and Canada; Michael Fitzgerald, m. Af., of England; Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., of Spain; and Sigitas Tamkevicius, S.J., of Lithuania.
As a result of today’s consistory there are 128 cardinal electors (under the age of 80) with a right to vote in a conclave. Pope Francis has created a little more than half of them (67), with 43 created by Benedict XVI and 18 created by John Paul II. By Oct. 15, the number of electors will have been reduced to 124 because between four of the present electors will have reached the age of 80 and have lost the right to vote. Since one cardinal elector is currently in prison (George Pell of(Australia), if a conclave were to be held this year, there would be a maximum of 123 electors.
As a result of today’s consistory there are 128 cardinal electors (under the age of 80) with a right to vote in a conclave. Pope Francis has created a little more than half of them (67).
Europe now has 54 electors (including 23 from Italy); North America has 13 (nine from the United States and four from Canada); Latin America has 23; Africa has 18; Asia has 16; and Oceania has four.
Compared with the conclave that elected Pope Francis, there are fewer European and Italian electors today. Of the 115 cardinals who participated in the 2013 conclave, 60 were from Europe (including 28 Italians), 14 from North America (11 from the United States and three from Canada), 19 from Latin America, 11 from Africa, 10 from Asia and one from Oceania.
In today’s homily, Francis took his cue from the Gospel of the day (Mk 6, 30-37) which is about Jesus showing compassion. He reminded the thousands gathered in the brightly lit basilica—including relatives and friends of the new cardinals, the College of Cardinals, the diplomatic corps, and government delegations from Canada and the Archduke of Luxembourg—that “compassion is a key word in the Gospel. It is written in Christ’s heart; it is forever written in the heart of God.”
The pope directly asked the cardinals in front of him, “Do we have a lively awareness of this compassion that God feels for us?”
He said, “the more we read [the Gospels], the more we contemplate, the more we come to realize that the Lord’s compassion is not an occasional, sporadic emotion, but is steadfast and indeed seems to be the attitude of his heart, in which God’s mercy is made incarnate.” He reminded everyone that “this compassion did not appear suddenly at one moment in the history of salvation. No, it was always there in God, impressed on his paternal heart.”
The pope continued, “God’s love for his people is drenched with compassion, to the extent that…what is divine is compassionate, while, sad to say, it appears that what is human is so often lacking in compassion.” He recalled that the disciples of Jesus “often show themselves lacking compassion, as in this case, when they are faced with the problem of having to feed the crowds. In effect, they say: “Let them worry about it themselves…”
Francis, dressed in a white cope, noted that “this is a common attitude among us human beings, even those of us who are religious persons or even religious professionals.’”
“The readiness of a cardinal to shed his own blood...is secure if it is rooted in this awareness of having been shown compassion and in the ability to show compassion in return.”
Looking at the hundred or more cardinals seated in front of him, the pope said, “We can ask ourselves: are we conscious—we, in the first place—of having been the object of God’s compassion?” He put the question more directly: “In particular, I ask this of you, brother cardinals and those about to become cardinals: Do you have a lively awareness of always having been preceded and accompanied by his mercy? Do we have a lively awareness of this compassion that God feels for us?”
Francis added, “on this lively awareness also depends the ability to be loyal in our own ministry. This also holds true for you, brother cardinals. The readiness of a cardinal to shed his own blood— as signified by the scarlet color of your robes —is secure if it is rooted in this awareness of having been shown compassion and in the ability to show compassion in turn. Otherwise, one cannot be loyal. So many disloyal actions on the part of ecclesiastics are born of the lack of a sense of having been shown compassion, and by the habit of averting one’s gaze, the habit of indifference.”
After delivering his homily, Pope Francis read out the names of the new cardinals. The cardinals then recited the creed and read their oath of fidelity to Christ and obedience to the Successor of Peter. The pope and placed the red hat on the heads of the 13 new cardinals, and afterward put rings on their fingers and gave them the title to a church in the diocese of Rome. Henceforth they are members of the Roman clergy.
Pope Francis has held six consistories so far, and in all of them he has looked to the “peripheries” to make his choices. He has carefully chosen cardinals who share his ecclesial vision. He has also chosen men who are prayerful and humble, compassionate not judgmental. These are men with a missionary spirit, who reach out to people, who are not seeking status or career, who serve and not lord it over others, who embody the culture of encounter and dialogue, and who are sensitive to the sufferings of others. In making these selections, Francis has gone a long way toward ensuring that his ecclesial vision and legacy will be continued by his successor.