VATICAN—”We have the same mission to evangelize the world as did the apostles 2,000 years ago, a fact that should fill us with wonder at our position of responsibility,” Pope Francis said at the Mass with the College of Cardinals in the past week.
“We continue to marvel at the unfathomable divine decision to evangelize the whole world starting with that ragtag group of disciples, some of whom—as the evangelist tells us—still doubted,” Pope Francis said during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on August 30.
“Yet, if we think about it, we should marvel no less if we look at ourselves, gathered here today, to whom the Lord has spoken those same words, given that same mandate,” he added.
Wonder is a way to salvation, the pope continued. “May God keep it ever alive in our hearts, for it sets us free from the temptation of thinking that we can ‘manage things.’ Or from the false security of thinking that today is somehow different, no longer like the origins.”
Francis said: “Today the Church is big, solid and we occupy eminent positions in its hierarchy… There is some truth in this, but there is also much deception, whereby the Father of Lies seeks to make Christ’s followers first worldly, then innocuous.”
The Mass with the College of Cardinals, with 197 in attendance, was offered for the Church. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, led the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pope Francis preached at the Mass, in a cope.
Participate in God’s plan
In his homily, the pope decried a “cancer of spiritual worldliness.”
A minister of the Church, he said, is “one who experiences wonder before God’s plan and, in that spirit, passionately loves the Church and stands at the service of her mission wherever and however the Holy Spirit may choose.”
He said Catholics should marvel not only at God’s plan of salvation, but at the “even more amazing fact” that God calls them to participate in this plan.
For Catholics, there is a “double mystery of our being blessed in Christ and of going forth with Christ into the world.”
“This wonder,” he said, addressing the new cardinals, “does not diminish with the passing of the years; it does not weaken with our increasing responsibilities in the Church. No, thanks be to God. It grows stronger and deeper.”
The Mass with new cardinals followed two days of closed-door meetings with the College of Cardinals to discuss Pope Francis’s reform of the Roman Curia, as laid out in the constitution Praedicate evangelium.
Saint Pope Paul VI’s encyclical
In his homily, Pope Francis pointed to Saint Pope Paul VI and his 1964 encyclical on the Church, Ecclesiam Suam.
Saint Paul VI loved the Church with “a love which is first and foremost gratitude, grateful wonder at her mystery and at the gift of our being not only members of the Church, but involved in her life, sharing in and, indeed, jointly responsible for her,” he said.
“At the beginning of his programmatic encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, written during the [Second Vatican] Council,” Francis said, “the first thought that came to the pope’s mind was that ‘the Church needs to cultivate a deeper awareness of her identity… her origin and her mission.’”
“In this regard, he made explicit reference to the Letter to the Ephesians, to ‘the providential plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God… so that through the Church… it may be made known.’”
“This was the case with the Apostle Saint Paul, as we see from his letters. His apostolic zeal and the concern for the community was always accompanied, and indeed preceded, by words of blessing filled with wonder and gratitude: ‘Blessed be God…’” Pope Francis said.
“May it also be the case with us,” he said. “May it be the case with each of you, dear brother Cardinals. May the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain this grace for each and every one of us.”
What the cardinals discuss behind closed doors?
The cardinals of the Catholic Church have been called to Rome for an extraordinary consistory. It is the first of its kind in seven years—and only the second of the pontificate of Pope Francis.
197 cardinals have followed the call. But what are they discussing, behind closed doors?
So far, information is hard to come by. Vatican watchers know that the meetings are dedicated to discussing the new constitution of the Roman Curia, Praedicate evangelium.
The cardinals are broken up into language groups for the first round of debates. Then they reconvene and discuss their findings in a plenary session—much like was done in recent synods.
The debates form the third consistory within only a few days: The first, on August 27, was dedicated to creating 20 new cardinals.
A second, immediately after, to approve the canonization of two blesseds: Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, an Italian bishop and founder of the Missionaries of St. Charles, and Artemide Zatti, an Italian immigrant to Argentina who was a nurse and Salesian Brother.
While this context is significant—as is the historic backdrop of the papal visit to L’Aquila—the communication from the Holy See was sparse indeed, noted one Vaticanist.
Among others: “The entirety of the information we have from the #Vatican as to the meeting today between #PopeFrancis and the world’s Catholic cardinals. One sentence: ‘Taking place today at the Vatican, in the presence of the Holy Father Francis, is the meeting of the cardinals….’”
One cardinal offered a glimpse, at least, of the atmosphere of the gathering. The first meeting with the Pope took place in a very fraternal atmosphere, Cardinal Enrico Feroci, pastor of Santa Maria del Divino Amore in Castel di Leva near Rome, told Vatican News.
After the opening prayer, he said, Francis opened the meeting by inviting everyone present to contribute to these two days of reflection on Praedicate evangelium.
Cardinal Feroci also said, according to the Vatican’s own reporting, that two reflections had been shared so far: One on Communion, the witness of mutual love among Christians, and one on the challenges of today’s society to open itself to the message of the Gospel.
Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, in a subsequent conversation with Vatican News, again highlighted the great participation of the cardinals in the meeting, where an open and intense dialogue was maintained.
The following day, these “open and intense” debates will take place in a plenary meeting before this extraordinary consistory concludes. In the afternoon of August 30, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with entire College of Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Image credits: Vatican Media