In his homily Saturday for the installation of the 20 new cardinals he has named, Pope Francis gave the prelates their marching orders, telling them to be magnanimous and respectful, and to avoid a series of vices including jealousy, pride, and vanity.
The Pope drew special attention to the developing world with his selection of the 20 new cardinals, including the first ever cardinals from Myanmar, Tonga, and Ethiopia.
This is also the first time in history that the number of non-Europeans outnumbers the Europeans in the electoral body that will vote for the next pope.
Drawing on Saint Paul’s “hymn to love,” a favorite text of Christian marriage ceremonies, Francis ran though the qualities that Paul ascribes to Christian charity, applying them to the new cardinals.
Francis told the cardinals that their new post was not an “honor” and that their real responsibility now is to show leadership in charity, showing themselves “magnanimous and benevolent.” The greater your responsibilities in the Church, he said, “the more you must widen your heart, according to the measure of Christ’s heart.”
“Magnanimity,” the Pope said, “is, in a sense, synonymous with Catholicism: knowing how to love without boundaries.”
Francis also reminded the cardinals that charity “is not jealous or boastful, and is not puffed up with pride.” All of us, in all stages of life, Francis said, “are prone to envy and pride because of our human nature is wounded by sin.”
“Ecclesiastical dignities are not immune to this temptation,” he said
He also said that since charity is not disrespectful or self-interested, neither should the cardinals be. “These two traits,” he said, “reveal that those who live in charity are de-centralized of self.”
“The self-centered person inevitably lacks respect,” Francis said, “and often does not realize it, because respect is the ability to take account of the other, to take account of his dignity, his condition, and his needs.”
Self-interest, Francis continued, “can also be cloaked in noble coatings, but underneath it is always just self-interest.”
The Pope also advised the cardinals to avoid anger and to be willing to suffer for the flock. “The pastor who lives in contact with his people has plenty of opportunities to get angry,” he said. “It is love, and only love, that frees us,” he said.
Charity—and thus a cardinal—“does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth,” Francis said. It “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Francis called this text a whole “program of spiritual and pastoral life.”
It is the “love of Christ,” said Francis, “that enables us to live well.” This does not come from us, he said “but from God.” God is love and “He accomplishes all this, if we are docile to the action of his Holy Spirit.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.