Pope decries surge of polarization
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis yesterday decried what he called a polarizing surge in much of the world to exclude people with different nationalities, races or beliefs as enemies, as he led a ceremony welcoming 17 new cardinals from six continents.
The consistory ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica formally inducted the churchmen into the cardinals’ ranks. One of the new “princes of the church,” as the cardinals are sometimes called, an 87-year-old bishop from Lesotho, Africa, was too frail to attend the ceremony; his red hat will be delivered to him, the pope announced in Latin.
Francis used his homily to encourage the new crop of cardinals to be near to, not remote from, the flocks of faithful they will lead. He said love is needed for “the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn,” and cautioned somberly against those who “raise walls, build barriers and label people.” “We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of the stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy. An enemy because they come from a distant country, or have different customs,” the pope said.
Popes, in selecting cardinals, look for men who share their approach to the church’s mission in the world. Among the newly made cardinals is Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin, who defied the governor of the US state of Indiana, Mike Pence, by welcoming Syrian refugees. Tobin in January will become archbishop of Newark, New Jersey; Pence will be installed as vice president of the United States.
The new cardinals who pledged loyalty to the pope on Saturday included prelates from Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North and South America. Some of their homelands include Papua New Guinea, Mauritius, Malaysia, Venezuela, Mexico, Bangladesh and Brazil. One of them, an 88-year-old Albanian priest, Ernest Simoni, personally knew the suffering caused by hatred. Simoni spent 18 years in prison because of his faith, facing both solitary confinement and hard labor, in his homeland during its communist regime. Since cardinals are usually bishops already, Francis bestowed a rare honor on giving that rank to Simoni, a simple priest. After Simoni kneeled before Francis to receive his red hat, he clasped the pope’s hand tightly and seemed to fight back tears.
When Francis visited Albania in 2014, he was brought to tears after Simoni told him how he was persecuted. Simoni, who worked to reconcile feuds in many of that country’s villages, after decades of serving clandestinely as a priest until the country’s communist rule ended in 1990. — AP