Pope Francis calls for Church unity

Published 24 February 2014  |  

This weekend saw Pope Francis hold his first ordinary public Consistory, during which he elevated 19 church officials, including Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, to the role of cardinal.

In a homily during the ceremony, the Pope challenged the new cardinals to be advocates for peace and compassion in a time of "pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world".

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Pope Francis greets new cardinal Vincent Nichols

He also prayed in particular for those Christians suffering "injustice on account of their religious convictions" and for all those across the globe who live in the midst of conflict.

The main thrust of his address, however, was that the cardinals must align themselves with the ways of God and take on a Kingdom mindset.

He continued this theme during mass in St Peter's Basilica on Sunday, stressing the transformational nature of the Holy Spirit and Jesus' call to "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect", in the Gospel of Matthew.

We "tend to be so different, so selfish and proud...and yet, God's goodness and beauty attract us, and the Holy Spirit is able to purify, transform and shape us day by day", the Pope asserted.

"Christ came to save us, to show us the way...and this way of holiness is mercy, that mercy which he has shown, and daily continues to show, to us. To be a saint is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world. This is what the Lord is asking of us," he said.

He underlined the huge responsibility that is upon a cardinal to "radiate Christ's love in our world", witnessing "with greater zeal and ardour to these ways of being holy".

"We love, therefore, those who are hostile to us; we bless those who speak ill of us; we greet with a smile those who may not deserve it. We do not aim to assert ourselves; we oppose arrogance with meekness; we forget the humiliations we have endured," the Pope said.

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Pope Francis greets his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who was also present at the Consistory in St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday.

"May we always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the cross so that we could be 'channels' through which his charity might flow. This is the attitude of a cardinal; this must be how he acts."

Following this urgent call, Pope Francis addressed a crowd in St Peter's Square on Sunday afternoon, teaching from 1 Corinthians and reinforcing St Paul's assertion that there should be no divisions between believers in Christ.

Having played a key role in reconciling those of different convictions within both the Anglican and Catholic Churches since his election to papacy last March, Pope Francis is perhaps one of the most qualified to assert that "a community does not belong to the preacher, but to Christ".

"Everything belongs to you Christ! Not to Paul, Apollos or Cephas - the world, life, death, the present and the future, everything is yours! For you belong to Christ, and Christ to God!" he declared.

As the first anniversary of his assumption to the role of the head of the Catholic Church draws near, the Pope's passion for a united body of believers who care for the most vulnerable and needy and are open about sharing their faith is showing no sign of abating.

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Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales

He stressed that all believers, of all traditions, are united in their faith in Jesus, and must reclaim this unity, something that cardinals have a particular duty to perpetuate.

"They must put themselves in the service of the community, helping it in its journey of holiness with joy.

"Pray for us so that we may be good servants: good servants, not good masters!" he asked, to rapturous applause from the crowd below.

Vincent Nichols was created a cardinal alongside 18 other prelates at a ceremony in Rome on Saturday. During the ceremony, the Pope presented him with the red biretta and the cardinalatial ring. Cardinal Nichols was also assigned the titular church of The Most Holy Redeemer and St Alphonsus in Rome.

The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop Nichols' successor as Archbishop of Birmingham, travelled to Rome to support his friend, and welcomed his admission to the College of Cardinals.

"Birmingham Catholics are proud of all that our new cardinal achieved in our Archdiocese for our parishes and schools, our religious communities and outreach projects and for interfaith schools," he said.

"We pray for Cardinal Vincent today, and we look forward very much to giving him a warm Brummie welcome when he comes to celebrate Mass at St Chad's Cathedral on Sunday 30 March."

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