Address to New Cardinals

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Given 26 November 1994 to the consistory in Rome at which the 30 new cardinals he named 30 October received red hats.

"Filius hominis venit ut ministraret et daret animam suam redeptionem pro multis" (Proclamation of the Gospel, cf. Mk. 10:45).

1. Jesus thus describes his mission, presenting himself as a model to be imitated and followed. The mission which he received from the Father he entrusts to the apostles and to every believer: to proclaim and bear witness before the world to the truth. Christ, the firstborn of every creature, for this purpose gave his life on the cross for the redemption "of the many," that is for all men and women.

In this act of giving himself completely, even to the sacrifice of the cross, there emerge with the greatest clarity the love of Christ for mankind and the evangelical service which he took upon himself in obedience to the Father. All disciples are called to share and to proclaim this example of the Master, each according to his own vocation, ever ready to become, with him, servants of everyone.

The words of the evangelist Mark fully illustrate the meaning of the consistory, an occasion of great importance for the life of the church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and martyrs. The service of love to which the Lord calls those who are baptized is set as an example in an altogether particular way before you, dear and venerable brothers, chosen for the dignity of the cardinalate.

It is a demanding service, to be given with the greatest dedication "usque ad effusionem sanguinis," as the formula for the giving of the biretta states and as the color red associated with the cardinalate clearly shows.

2. Tend the flock of God, being examples to the flock (cf. 1 Pt. 5:2). Venerable brothers, through today's celebration you become members in full right of the church of Rome, of which the successor of Peter is the bishop. From the first millennium of its history, the church of Rome comprised the suburbicarian dioceses entrusted to bishops; the parishes for which priests were responsible; and the "diaconate" in which, in accordance with an ancient apostolic tradition, deacons carried out their liturgical and social tasks. The College of Cardinals still reflects this ordering, although in changed historical conditions, through the threefold division of cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons. It is very significant, for example, that those in charge of the departments of the Roman Curia are cardinal deacons, in order to emphasize, in as it were a visible manner, the "diaconal" nature of the Curia at the service of the universal church.

Your link with the church of Rome thus sheds light on the particular mission which this ecclesial community and its pastor, the pope, carry out on behalf of the whole people of God: a diaconal mission of communion and guidance in preaching and witnessing to the Gospel, meeting the great "challenges" of the contemporary world.

3. The specific task of the cardinals gathered in conclave is precisely the election of the bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, ensuring the continuity of the apostolic succession in this see, a continuity essential for the church and for her journey through the centuries in faithful service of the Gospel.

The College of Cardinals in its present makeup likewise expresses in a very significant way the unity and universality of the people of God and, especially in recent years, it has been enriched by the growing presence of prelates from many nations and from every continent: In the group of new cardinals no fewer than 24 nations of every region of the world are represented.

The communion of the whole flock of God, nourished by Christ, the prince of shepherds (cf. Lumen Gentium, 6), is thereby mirrored, in a certain way, in the College of Cardinals, the institution of which is very important from the viewpoint of the collegial tradition of the church. The collegial dimension, constitutive and essential for the episcopacy, finds in fact an eminent and exemplary manifestation in the cardinals gathered about the successor of Peter.

This collegial dimension, present from the beginning and intrinsic to the apostolic succession, continued to develop through the course of the centuries in the history of the church and today is enjoying an especially happy period of rediscovery of its authenticity and of its acquisition of new forms.

This is also true of the particular expression constituted by the College of Cardinals: In addition to embracing, so to speak, the whole world, it is today developing its ministry more constantly and efficiently, thanks to the greater possibilities of communicating and coming together. Communion, collegiality and communication go together: communication at the service of collegiality, and collegiality at the service of communion.

4. A singular expression of ecclesial communion, and in particular of episcopal collegiality, is without doubt the Synod of Bishops. The Second Vatican Council, as also my venerable predecessor, the servant of God Paul VI, actively worked to ensure that this institution would acquire ever great vigor and strength. Thus in the years after the council there was a providential development of the synodal dimension of the church, the fruits of which are clear to all. The call to the cardinalate of the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops can be seen, over and above personal recognition, as a further stage in this process.

The development of the "synodal dimension" of the church, which visibly reflects the collegiality of the entire episcopate, is matched by the tradition of ordinary and extraordinary consistories. In the 16 years of my pastoral service, I have had the occasion to convoke six ordinary consistories and five extraordinary ones, the last of which took place last June and was dedicated to the preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. From that meeting I gathered much material for the preparation of the apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente.

5. Venerable brothers! I am truly happy on this occasion to greet with affection each one of you, together with the ecclesial communities of which you are the pastors or from which you come. Among you there are prelates who already for a considerable time have offered valuable service to the Holy See, pastors who lead Christian communities steeped in history or well-known for their enduring and courageous witness to the Gospel, bishops who for the first time are ensuring for the communities from which they come a presence and voice in the College of Cardinals; there are also among the newly elect renowned exponents of Catholic thought.

Acting as spokesman on your behalf has been the beloved Cardinal Nasrallah-Pierre Sfeir, whom I thank most sincerely for the touching words addressed to me. He has likewise reaffirmed the commitment of each new cardinal to remain faithful to his own vocation as pastor, in full and generous collaboration with the Holy See.

My thoughts naturally turn at this moment with particular intensity to every Christian community which is being severely tested. I am thinking of the faithful in Lebanon, where they are experiencing in their own flesh the consequences of the grave problems connected with the political situation in the Middle East; I am thinking of the churches in Eastern Europe which for long years had to endure the oppression of an atheistic totalitarian regime; I am thinking of the Catholics of Vietnam and Cuba, who are giving a courageous testimony of faithfulness to Christ and of silent service to their brothers and sisters in the midst of many difficulties; I am thinking in particular of the Christians of Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina where, unfortunately, the devastating roar of weapons has not yet ceased and so much innocent blood continues to be shed, without any prospect for peace in sight.

Your presence, venerable brothers, is a great sign of hope: It shows that the whole church stands beside those who suffer, through prayer and through spiritual and practical solidarity. The church and the pope are particularly united with our brothers and sisters in the beloved land of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a symbol of senseless fratricidal fighting which stains Europe and the world with blood. They look upon that region with Christian trust and invoke from our merciful God the coming of the hoped-for reconciliation and peace for the peoples involved in the conflict.

6. It is Christ, venerable brothers, who is our authentic peace: We await him. Indeed, tomorrow begins the season of Advent, a time of expectation and prayerful vigilance.

But Advent this year takes on a very particular importance. With it, in fact, begins the preparation of the whole church for the historic rendezvous with the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which we are already approaching.

In my recent apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, I emphasized how "Christians are called to prepare for the great jubilee of the beginning of the third millennium by renewing their hope in the definitive coming of the kingdom of God, preparing for it daily in their hearts, in the Christian community to which they belong, in their particular social context and in world history itself" (No. 46).

The church is called to show all humanity, by word and example, that its journey in time is really a journey toward Christ, a mysterious spiritual journey which ends in God.

7. I entrust this demanding journey to the virgin mother of the Redeemer, who is particularly present in the Advent liturgy. She is the perfect image of the church, which awaits with hope the coming of the Son of God. Mary goes before us on the road toward Christ, firm in faith and ready to fulfill the word of Got. Her total adherence to the salvific plan is a model for every believer who lives in active anticipation of the return of the Lord of glory.

To her I entrust in particular you, dearest brothers, upon whom I am about to impose the biretta and to whom I am about to assign the cardinalatial title, that she may guide and sustain your service in the church.

Clothed in hope and love, invigorated in its splendor and holiness, may the community of believes thus daily continue with courage its arduous mission of proclaiming and bearing witness to the good news of Christ.

In the certainty that, after she has suffered a little while, the God of every grace will confirm her and make her firm forever (cf. 1 Pt. 5:10), the church calmly presses forward "in the midst of the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God" (St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 18, 59, 2).

"Ipsi imperium in saecula saeculorum. Amen! (Pt. 5:11).

Electronic Copyright � 1999 EWTN
All Rights Reserved