It brought us great joy that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI made another extraordinary move for calling a second consistory, last 24 November 2012, for the creation of six new Cardinals this year, which includes our very own Filipino primate: His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila. Many rejoice and thank God for a wonderful gift to Catholics in the Philippines, and all around the world where their Archbishops were chosen. However, few people know about the roles of a Cardinal, how someone is made a Cardinal, and what the symbols of a Cardinal are.
The roles of a Cardinal are stated in Code of Canon Law nos. 349-359, which is demonstrable. Yet I wish to emphasize the Holy Father’s homily during the consistory for the creation of new cardinals that recapitulates their roles:
They are the representation of the universal Church within the Church of Rome. Meaning, they highlight the universality of the Catholic Church – a Church of all peoples – who continuously do the apostolic mission handed down by their successors in their respective local Churches to build up the Body of Christ and to unite them in the Universal Shepherd, to Peter – in the person of the Pope – to whom Christ made known his desire for salvation.
The Cardinals, as they renew their fidelity as bishops, will serve as Pastors of the whole flock of Christ and prime guarantors of its doctrine, discipline and morals. Their work, in union with the Vicar of Christ, is to preserve the faith and continuously deepen this gift from God by their good Christian living and witnessing until death. Thus, the red clerical vestments of the Cardinals symbolize their readiness for martyrdom for the sake Our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy Church, which Christ entrusted to them.
To enhance the dignity of their new mission in the Church as her princes, the Rite for the creation of the new Cardinals, though simple yet noble, is celebrated as an act of thanksgiving to God, a celebration of faith, and to impose a new mission to these chosen men that will accompany Peter in casting the nets into the sea and gather all people the Kingdom of God and his love. The simplified rite, which was also used on February 18, 2012, is in the structure of the Liturgy of the Word. The Gospel is read and a homily follows. After the homily, the creation of the new cardinals is begun.
The Holy Father addresses the candidates and reminds them of their role as bishops and reiterates to them their task “to be fearless witnesses to Christ and his Gospel in the City of Rome and in faraway regions.” Through this, the candidates make the Profession of Faith (Apostle’s Creed) and swore an oath to remain faithful to Christ and his Gospel; to be obedient to the Holy Apostolic Roman Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff; to become members of the Roman clergy and cooperate more directly with the Pope and his canonically elected successors; always to remain in communion with the Catholic Church in words and actions, not to make known to anyone matters entrusted to them in confidence, the disclosure of which could bring damage or dishonor to Holy Church; and to carry out diligently and faithfully the duties to which they are called in service to the Church, according to the norms laid down by law.
|The Cardinal's Ring|
After the Profession of Faith and Oath of Cardinals, each candidate goes to the Holy Father to receive their insignias: the red biretta, the Cardinal’s ring, and the assignment of a titular church.
The Red Biretta is a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying their readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of their blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of Holy Catholic Church.
The Cardinal’s ring, which they receive from the hands of Peter, is a sign of love for the Church and their unity and love to the Prince of the Apostles, the Pope, to whom Christ entrusted his Church.
The assignment given by the Pope, either a deaconry (Cardinal-Deacon, which we see in solemn Papal liturgies dressed in dalmatics) or titular-Church (Cardinal-Priest, a title as such of a “parish priest/pastor”) is a very rich representation that these Cardinals, already incardinated in the Diocese of Rome, are near in the presence of the Pope, united in him in feeding and tending the sheep of Christ, and a strong manifestation of the Universality of the Church within the City of Rome. Some will not receive a titular Church, especially those who are from the Eastern Rite because they already represent a particular Church.
As the new Cardinals completed their insignias, the Holy Father now gives the Kiss of Peace, and is given by the whole College of Cardinals present as sign of welcome and fraternal communion and affection.
The next day, a Eucharistic Celebration, presided by the Pope with the new Cardinals, is celebrated as a solemn act of thanksgiving for God’s new gift for the Church.
Concerning about the title “Prince of the Roman Church,” this title derives from Psalm 44: 17-18: “You will make them princes over all the earth. May this song make your name for ever remembered.” The title “Prince” is not a royal function but a ministerial title that roots them from Christ our King, who serves and is ready to offer his life for all. They are ‘Prince’ because they are servants of the people, they are ready to defend and protect the people entrusted to them by The King. This title is so rich that bestowing it to a Cardinal entails a great responsibility. That is why we need to pray for them and to help them with our love and obedience.
Let us pray that our new Cardinals that, in spite of their human weakness, they may constantly build up Christ’s Church, and may they shine forth with integrity of faith and purity of mind so that they may help our Holy Father carry out wisely the office entrusted to him by Our Lord. In the end, let us pray that the Lord, whom they love and follow, may welcome them in his kingdom and may hear from his very own mouth: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Mt. 25:21)