On Saturday, February 18, Pope Benedict XVI created 22 new Cardinals for the service of the Church.
Since Cardinals in the Church wear bright red vestments, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have emphasized the symbolism of the bright red color. It is not a color of distinction or privilege, rather, it is a color which designates the willingness to shed one's blood for Jesus Christ and His Church.
The words of our Holy Father in his homily are poignant:
"...the life and the death of Peter the Prince of the Apostles, who for love of Christ gave himself even unto the ultimate sacrifice, will be an example and a helpful witness of faith for the new Cardinals. It is with this meaning that the placing of the red biretta is also to be understood. The new Cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the color of their robes.
Furthermore, they are asked to serve the Church with love and vigor, with the transparency and widom of teachers, with the energy and strength of shepherds, with the fidelity and courage of martyrs. They are to be eminent servants of the Church that finds in Peter the visible foundation of unity."
The Gospel chosen for the Consistory of new Cardinals was Mark 10:35-45, the story about the ambition of James and John--their request to sit at the right and left of Jesus in the Kingdom of God. Our Holy Father stressed to the Cardinals the need to follow the example of Jesus who came, not to be served, but to serve and hand over his life for all.
The words of Pope Benedict:
"Dominion and service, egoism and altruism, possession and gift, self-interest and gratuitousness: these profoundly contrasting approaches confront each other in every age and place. There is no doubt about the path chosen by Jesus: he does not merely indicate it with words to the disciples of then and of today, but he lives it in his own flesh. He explains, in fact, 'For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' These words shed light upon todays' public Consistory with a particular intensity. They resound in the depths of the soul and represent an invitation and a reminder, a commission and an encouragement especially for you, dear and venerable Brothers who are about to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals."
This is the eighth Consistory of new Cardinals since my own Consistory back in 1991. A similar message has been proclaimed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI over the years, a message both ancient but ever new.
These words this year provide me a renewed opportuntiy to commit myself with renewed vigor to our Lord Jesus Christ and to His Church, and to offer myself in total service to God's plan of salvation--with a willingness to suffer as did Jesus, and a devotion to the service of others in His name.