THE CONSISTORY: The Homily
Notably, alongside the original Italian text, we were also given the English translation....
The Word of God, which has just been proclaimed to us, takes us back in time. With the Evangelist Mark we return to the very origin of the Church and specifically to the origin of the Petrine ministry. With the eyes of our hearts we see the Lord Jesus once again, to whose praise and glory this act in which we are engaged is totally directed and dedicated. The words he speaks to us recall to our minds the definition of the Roman Pontiff so dear to the heart of Saint Gregory the Great: "Servus servorum Dei". When Jesus explains to the twelve Apostles that their authority will have to be exercised quite differently from that of "the rulers of the Gentiles", he expresses it in terms of service: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" (Mk 10:43-44). Total and generous availability to serve others is the distinctive mark of those in positions of authority in the Church, because it was thus for the Son of Man, who came "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). Although he was God, or one might even say driven by his divinity, he assumed the form of a servant - "formam servi" - as is wonderfully expressed in the hymn to Christ contained in the Letter the the Philippians (cf. 2:6-7).
The first "servant of the servants of God" is therefore Jesus. After him, and united with him, come the Apostles; and among these, in a particular way, Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the responsibility of guiding his flock. The Pope must be the first to make himself the servant of all. Clear testimony to this is found in the first reading today, which puts before us Peter’s exhortation to the "presbyters" and elders of the community (cf. 1 Pet 5:1). It is an exhortation given with the authority that comes to the Apostle from the fact that he is a witness of the sufferings of Christ, the Good Shepherd. We sense that Peter’s words come from his personal experience of service to God’s flock, but first and foremost they are derived from direct experience of Jesus’s own behaviour: the way he served to the point of self-sacrifice, the way he humbled himself even unto death, death on a cross, trusting in the Father alone, who subsequently raised him on high. Peter, like Paul, was utterly "conquered" by Christ - "comprehensus sum a Christo Iesu" (cf. Phil 3:12) - and like Paul he can exhort the elders with full authority because it is no longer he who lives, but Christ lives in him - "vivo autem iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus" (Gal 2:20)....Venerable and dear Brothers, I want to sum up the meaning of this new call that you have received in the word which I placed at the heart of my first Encyclical: caritas. This matches well the colour of your cardinalatial robes. May the scarlet that you now wear always express the caritas Christi, inspiring you to a passionate love for Christ, for his Church and for all humanity. You now have an additional motive to seek to rekindle in yourselves those same sentiments that led the incarnate Son of God to pour out his blood in atonement for the sins of the whole world. I am counting on you, venerable Brothers, I am counting on the entire College into which you are being incorporated, to proclaim to the world that "Deus caritas est", and to do so above all through the witness of sincere communion among Christians: "By this", said Jesus, "all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35). I am counting on you, dear Brother Cardinals, to ensure that the principle of love will spread far and wide, and will give new life to the Church at every level of her hierarchy, in every group of the faithful, in every religious Institute, in every spiritual, apostolic or humanitarian initiative. I am counting on you to see to it that our common endeavour to fix our gaze on Christ’s open Heart will hasten and secure our path towards the full unity of Christians. I am counting on you to see to it that the Church’s solicitude for the poor and needy challenges the world with a powerful statement on the civilization of love. All this I see symbolized in the scarlet with which you are now invested. May it truly be a symbol of ardent Christian love shining forth in your lives.
PHOTO: AP/Andrew Medichini