New duties do not diminish call to evangelise, Pope Francis tells cardinals

01 Sep 2022

By Contributor

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis speaking into a microphone
Pope Francis gives the homily during a Mass with new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 30 August 2022. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

Jesus’ call to spread the Gospel should fill all Christians, especially those within the church hierarchy, with a sense of wonder and gratitude, Pope Francis has said.

Celebrating Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday 30 August with the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis said this sense of wonder “sets us free from the temptation of thinking that we can ‘manage things.'”

“Today the church is big, it is solid, and we occupy eminent positions in its hierarchy. They call us ’eminence,'” he told the Cardinals and the estimated 4,500 people present.

“There is some truth in this, but there is also much deception, whereby the father of lies seeks to make Christ’s followers first worldly, then innocuous.”

Pope Francis, right, presides at a Mass with new cardinals in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 30 August 2022. The celebrant at the altar is Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

“This calling is under the temptation of worldliness and, step-by-step, it takes away your strength, it takes away your hope, it takes you away from seeing the gaze of Jesus, who calls us by name and sends us. This is the cancer, the woodworm of spiritual worldliness,” Pope Francis added, departing from his prepared remarks.

The votive Mass, offered “for the church,” was celebrated after the Holy Father met with cardinals from around the world on 29 and 30 August to reflect on the apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium (Preach the Gospel) on the reform of the Roman Curia.

“The work in language groups and exchanges in the hall provided an opportunity for free discussion on many aspects related to the document and the life of the church,” the Vatican said in a statement published on 30 August.

The final session of the pope’s meeting with the cardinals, the statement said, was dedicated to the Jubilee Year in 2025.

Pope Francis greets new cardinals after presiding at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 30 August 2022. Pictured from left are new US Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego, Italian Cardinal Oscar Cantoni of Como and New Brazilian Cardinal Paulo Cezar Costa of Brasília. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the first reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, in which the apostle praises God for revealing “the mystery of his purpose” and his “hidden plan” for humanity.

St Paul’s hymn of praise, Pope Francis said, is “born of wonder, a praise that will never become force of habit, as long as it remains rooted in wonder and nourished by that fundamental attitude of the heart and spirit.”

Recalling the Gospel reading from St Matthew, in which Jesus sends his followers “to make disciples of all the nations,” Pope Francis said Christians cannot only marvel “at the plan of salvation itself, but at the even more amazing fact that God calls us to share in this plan.”

Christ’s promise that “I will be with you always to the end of time,” he said, “still has the power, even after 2,000 years, to thrill our hearts.”

“We continue to marvel at the unfathomable divine decision to evangelise the whole world, starting with that ragtag group of disciples, some of whom – as the evangelist tells us – still doubted,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gives the homily during a Mass with new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 30 August 2022. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring.

Nevertheless, he continued, the mystery “of our being blessed in Christ and of going forth with Christ into the world” should awaken in Christians the “wonder of being in the church.”

Addressing the 20 new cardinals, elevated in a consistory on 27 August, Pope Francis said the wonder of being chosen to spread the Gospel “does not diminish with the passing of the years,” nor does it “weaken with our increasing responsibilities in the church.”

“No, thanks be to God; it grows stronger and deeper. I am certain that this is also the case with you, dear brothers, who have now become members of the College of Cardinals,” he said.

Pope Francis presides at a Mass with new cardinals in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday 30 August 2022. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

Citing St Paul’s VI’s encyclical letter on the church, Ecclesiam Suam, Pope Francis expressed gratitude to his predecessor, “who passed on to us this love for the church” and gratefulness for the “gift of our being not only members of the church, but involved in her life, sharing in and, indeed, jointly responsible for her.”

Christians who are ministers of the church, Pope Francis said, are those who love the church and are ready to be at “the service of her mission wherever and however the Holy Spirit may choose.”

“This was the case with the apostle St Paul, as we see from his letters. His apostolic zeal and the concern for the community was always accompanied, and indeed preceded, by words of blessing filled with wonder and gratitude,” Pope Francis said.

“May it also be the case with us. May it be the case with each of you, dear brother cardinals,” he said.

Pope Francis is seated as new US Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego, right, and other new cardinals arrive in procession for a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Wednesday 30 August 2022. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring.