By CINDY WOODEN, Catholic News Service | Published March 6, 2014
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—On a feast day commemorating the authority Jesus gave to St. Peter and his successors—the popes—Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI.
To the great surprise of most people present, the retired pope entered St. Peter’s Basilica about 15 minutes before the new cardinals and Pope Francis. Wearing a long white coat and using a cane, he took a seat in the front row next to Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict’s presence at the consistory Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of Peter, marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public prayer service in the basilica. Pope Benedict resigned Feb. 28, 2013, becoming the first pope in almost 600 years to do so.
The new cardinals publicly recited the Creed and swore obedience to the pope and his successors before receiving from Pope Francis a red hat, a ring and the assignment of a “titular church” in Rome, becoming part of the clergy of the pope’s diocese. The oldest of the new cardinals, Cardinal Loris Capovilla, 98, was not present.
In his homily Pope Francis focused on the cardinals being called to follow Christ more closely, to build up the unity of the church and to proclaim the Gospel more courageously.
The Bible, he said, is filled with stories of Jesus walking with his disciples and teaching them as they traveled.
“This is important,” the pope said. “Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy, an ideology, but rather a ‘way,’ a journey to be undertaken with him, and we learn the way as we go, by walking.”
Pope Francis also spoke about the very human, worldly temptation of “rivalry, jealousy (and) factions” the first disciples faced.
He told the new cardinals, who come from 15 different countries—including very poor nations—that the church “needs you, your cooperation and, even more, your communion, communion with me and among yourselves.”
“The church needs your courage,” he said, “to proclaim the Gospel at all times” and “to bear witness to the truth.”
The pope also told the cardinals that the church needs their “compassion, especially at this time of pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world,” and for so many Christians who face discrimination and persecution. “We must struggle against all discrimination,” he said.
“The church needs us also to be peacemakers, building peace by our actions, hopes and prayers,” he said.
There are now 218 cardinals in the world; 122 cardinals are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a papal conclave. The 19 cardinals are from dioceses in Italy; Argentina; Brazil; Chile; Nicaragua; Canada; Haiti; St. Lucia; England; Germany; Spain; Burkina Faso; Ivory Coast; South Korea; and the Philippines.