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Pope warns new cardinals against polarisation

VATICAN (SE): “The virus of polarisation and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting,” Pope Francis said at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to elevate 16 bishops and one priest to membership in the College of Cardinals on November 19.

The pope described the polarisation he sees within the Church as being contrary to its richness and universality, which must be tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals.

He added that within the Church there should be no enemies, saying, “My enemy is someone I must love. In God’s heart there are no enemies. God only has sons and daughters. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.”

During his pontificate, Pope Francis has always placed his pastoral emphasis on working towards including people in the embrace of the Church rather than excluding them.

He reinforced his message in addressing the new cardinals saying, “God has sons and daughters, precisely so that no one will be turned away. God’s love has the flavour of fidelity towards everyone, for it is a visceral love, a parental love that never abandons us, even when we go astray.”

And to those who want to place conditions on the hospitality of the Church of God, he noted, “Our Father does not wait for us to be good before he loves the world, he does not wait for us to be a little bit better or more perfect before he loves us.” 

He continued, “He loves us because he chooses to love us, he loves us because he has made us his sons and daughters.”

He then stressed that he even loved us even when we were enemies (Romans 5:10).

Pope Francis then made a point of saying that what should be of concern to us is that so many people are living without the strength, light and consolation, which are born out of friendship with Jesus Christ.

He described them as living without a community of faith to support them, without meaning or a goal in life.

The pope strongly indicated that it is among these people that the Church must be. Referring to the gospel reading for the Mass, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…,” he said, “The call of the apostles is linked to this setting out, descending to the plain to encounter the multitudes who, as the gospel says, were troubled.”

He said that instead of keeping his apostles isolated at the top of the mountain, Jesus instructed them to go right into the heart of the crowd, into the midst of those who are troubled, right down onto the plain of their daily lives.

In calling the cardinals to witness to the richness of universality, Pope Francis pointed out that they come from many different backgrounds, speak many languages, have different skin colour and social backgrounds, but none of this makes them enemies.

Instead, he called it a sign of the great richness of the college, which, following the trend begun by Pope John Paul II, is increasingly representative of even the most far flung parts of the world.

Pope Francis has now appointed 44 cardinals, about one third of those who will probably elect his successor. 

On average, his appointments are younger than those named by either Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict XVI and significantly less of them are from Europe—only 38 per cent, as compared with 59 per cent under his predecessor.

The Pacific island kingdom of Tonga received its first cardinal and the Caribbean, Oceania and Central America have an increasing representation. In addition, the archbishop of Dhaka, from the tiny minority Church of Bangladesh, has become its first cardinal.

In the early 1900s, around two-thirds of the cardinals were in Europe, but today over half are in Latin America and Africa.

In this round of appointments, only one Italian was named, Archbishop Mario Zenari, and he is the apostolic nuncio to war-torn Syria.

In replying to Pope Francis, Cardinal Zenari said, “We are called by the ancient Churches of the east, by young Churches and the Churches of the new world (and) we are invited by her to be in a Church outward bound, in the most diverse existential peripheries.”

Due to age and ill health, Archbishop Sebastian Koto Khoarai, from Lesotho, was absent.

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