Vatican City, 15 March 2013 (Vatican Information Service) – “Courage, dear brothers! Probably half of us are in our old age. Old age, they say, is the seat of wisdom. The old ones have the wisdom that they have earned from walking through life. Like old Simeon and Anna at the temple whose wisdom allowed them to recognize Jesus. Let us give with wisdom to the youth: like good wine that improves with age, let us give the youth the wisdom of our lives.”
This is how Pope Francisco addressed the cardinals this morning in the Clementine Hall at his first meeting with the entire College of Cardinals, electors and non-electors. The pontiff improvised at several times during his talk, such as when he informed them that, the day before yesterday, Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, archivist emeritus of the Vatican Secret Archives, suffered a heart attack and is now recovering at the Pius XI private clinic. “His condition is stable and he sent his greetings to us all.”
Before beginning his address, the Pope listened to the greeting that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, read to him on behalf of the entire College. “We give thanks to the Lord our God. This is the liturgical invitation that we, the Cardinal Fathers address to one another, between the ‘seniors’ and the ‘juniors’, to thank the Lord for the gift that He has made to His Holy Church, giving us a new Shepherd. … Know, Holy Father, that all of us, your cardinals, are at your full disposal, seeking to build with you the apostolic cenacle of the nascent Church, the Upper Room of Pentecost. We will try to keep ‘an open mind and a believing heart’, as you wrote in your book of meditations.”
During his address, Pope Francis affirmed that today’s encounter “seeks to be almost an extension of the intense ecclesial communion experienced in this period. Enlivened by a profound sense of responsibility and supported by a great love for Christ and the Church, we have prayed together, sharing our fraternal feelings, our experiences and reflections. A mutual understanding and openness has brown in this climate of great cordiality. This is good because we are brothers. Someone said to me: ‘The cardinals are the Holy Father’s priests.’ But we are that community, that friendship, that closeness that will do us all well. And this knowledge, this mutual openness have facilitated our docility to the Holy Spirit. He, the Paraclete, is the supreme protagonist of every initiative and expression of faith.” He then added: “It’s curious: It makes me think that the Paraclete makes all the differences in the Churches and seems to be an apostle of Babel. But, on the other hand, [the Holy Spirit] is the one who makes unity of these differences, not in equality, but in harmony. I remember the Church Father who defined it thus: ‘Ipse harmonia est.’ This Paraclete who gives, to each of us, different gifts, unites us in this Church community that worships the Father, the Son, and Him, the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Father noted that “the period of the Conclave was full of meaning, not only for the College of Cardinals, but also for all the faithful. In these days we felt, almost tangibly, the affection and solidarity of the universal Church, as well as the attention of many people who, although they do not share our faith, look to the Church and the Holy See with respect and admiration.” At the same time he expressed his gratitude to all the cardinals for their cooperation in the Church’s functions during the Sede Vacante. He especially thanked Cardinal Sodano for “his words of devotion and for the well wishes that he extended to me [on behalf of the cardinals]” and Cardinal Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., “for his thoughtful work in this delicate phase of transition”. He also thanked Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, cardinal dean of the Conclave “who was our boss in the Conclave: thank you very much!”
He then continued: “I think with great affection and deep gratitude of my venerable predecessor, Benedict XVI, who during these years of his pontificate has enriched and strengthened the Church with his teaching, his goodness, his guidance, his faith, his humility, and his gentleness, which will remain a spiritual heritage for all. He noted that, “as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us so often in his teachings and most recently with his brave and humble gesture, Christ is the one who guides the Church through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, with his life-giving force that unifies one body from many: the mystical Body of Christ.”
“Let us never give in to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day. Do not give in to pessimism and discouragement. We have the firm certainty that the Holy Spirit gives the Church with His mighty breath, the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it responds to the deep needs of human existence, convincingly announcing that Chirst is the only Saviour of the whole person and of all persons. This announcement is as valid today as it was at the beginning of Christianity when there was a great missionary expansion of the Gospel.
“Now,” he finished, “return to your Sees to continue your ministry enriched by the experience of these days that have been so full of faith and ecclesial communion. This unique and incomparable experience has allowed us to understand in depth the beauty of ecclesial reality, which is a reflection of the splendour of the Risen Christ. One day we’ll look upon that beautiful face of the Risen Christ.”
On finishing his address, the Pope greeted, one by one, all the cardinals present in the Clementine Hall personally.