Pope Benedict XVI has asked the newest cardinals not to ask Christ to come down from the cross, but rather to unite themselves faithfully to Him for the redemption of the world.
At a St. Peter’s Basilica Mass on Nov. 21, the Pope gave each of the 24 newest cardinals a ring with the image of a crucifix emblazoned on it. The image was intended to remind them that their ministry is dependent upon their fidelity to the crucified Christ.
The Mass took place just a day after the consistory event which created the cardinals. It marked the feast of Christ the King, the day on which Catholic Christians mark the final Sunday of the liturgical year and celebrate the supreme dominion of the Lord over the universe.
The Pope and the new cardinals were joined in St. Peter's by more than 100 other cardinals in addition to bishops, priests, religious and faithful representing the farthest reaches of the globe. Swahili and Singhalese, the language of Sri Lanka, were used for prayers during the celebration.
Pope Benedict began Mass with a call to the faithful to look to the Cross on which Christ showed that he was Lord of all. It serves as a reminder, he said, that every true Christian disciple is called to share in Jesus' death on the cross for the redemption of the world.
A reading from the Gospel of St. Luke illustrated a scene from Christ's final moments on the cross.
Flanked by two crucified thieves, Jesus hears one ask him to remember him after death. Jesus tells this "good thief" that they will be together in paradise.
Because of his faith, this "good thief" is already in paradise, the Pope said during his homily "because paradise is this: being with Jesus, being with God."
He told the two dozen new cardinals that this is the fundamental message of the Gospel. "It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the cross, but to remain there with Him.
"And this, because of our ministry, we must do not only for ourselves, but for all the Church, for the entire people of God," he told them.
Their ministry must be based on a faith passed "through the scandal of the cross, to become authentic, truly 'Christian,' to become the 'rock' on which Jesus may build his Church," he said.
Jesus' ability to build the Church on these men is contingent on their true faith in Him, said the Pope. Theirs is a faith “that does not wish to make Jesus come down from the cross, but entrusts itself to Him on the cross."
Their effectiveness in service to the Church depends on this fidelity to the crucified Christ, he said.
This is not limited to cardinals, explained the Pope. All Christians find joy and peace in sharing in the cross, because through it one is "transferred" into the Kingdom of God.
He placed a ring on the right hand of each of the two dozen with a prayer. He then told them to go out into the world to bring God and his message to the world, to edify His Church and to bless and bring peace to all people.
Pope Benedict XVI prayed that the Lord Jesus Christ, "eternal Pastor and universal King," guide and protect the cardinals together with their faithful.
During the Angelus prayer that followed Mass, the Pope revisited Jesus' words to the "good thief." He said that in offering the one man paradise "from the 'throne' of the Cross," Jesus received "every man with infinite mercy."
He remembered also the feast of the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He entrusted the new cardinals and "our earthly pilgrimage toward eternity" to her intercession.