Pope Francis warned new Catholic cardinals against looking at their position as an honor, saying that church leaders should be servants to others.
In a homily, the pontiff told his fellow church leaders to keep their eyes on God, to avoid all forms of corruption, and not to succumb to a “worldly spirit” that can accompany the prestige and power of their new rank.
Pope Francis installed 13 new cardinals on Nov. 28, further expanding his impact on the group that will one day elect his successor.
The cardinals were installed in a ceremony, known as a consistory, that was markedly slimmed down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of the usual thousands, only 10 guests per cardinal were allowed in St. Peter’s Basilica as the pope gave the men their ring and traditional red hat, known as a biretta.
Nine of the 13 are under 80 and eligible under church law to enter a secret conclave to choose the next pope from among themselves after Pope Francis dies or resigns.
It was Pope Francis’ seventh consistory since his election in 2013.
He has now appointed 57 percent of the 128 cardinal electors, most of whom share his vision of a more inclusive and outward-looking Church.
Among those named cardinal were Archbishops Jose Advincula of Capiz in the Philippines and Cornelius Sim of Brunei who skipped the “red hat ceremony.”
Archbishop Advincula followed the event in his residence in Roxas City via a livestream feed from the St. Peter’s Basilica.
In his message to the new cardinals, Pope Francis said church leaders should not prioritize their own interests, but those of the people they serve.
He warned them against the honorific traditionally given to cardinals as “eminences,” saying that: “When you feel like that, you are ‘off the path.'”
In his reflection during the ceremony, the pontiff commented on a passage from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus speaks about his humiliation, passion, death and resurrection.
“The cross and the resurrection are part of our history; they are our ‘today’ but also and always the goal of our journey,” said the pontiff.
“Jesus, who is not indifferent to the amazement and fear of his disciples, prepares them for the trials to come so that they could always be with Him on His road,” he told the new cardinals.
“We must always be careful to remain on the road,” he said, adding that “our hearts can wander far afield and so lead us off the road.”
He warned that the “many types of corruption in priestly life” can make “the scarlet of a cardinal’s robes, which is the color of blood, can, for a worldly spirit, become the color of a secular ‘eminence.’”
Such a person he warned “will no longer be the pastor close to the people.”
During the consistory, the cardinals-designate professed the creed together and approached Pope Francis one by one to receive the red biretta, the cardinal’s ring, and the title and rank.
Cardinals, who are the pope’s closest collaborators, wear the color red, which symbolizes their readiness to sacrifice themselves “to the point of shedding their own blood” in the service of the Church.
Even though they live in their own countries, each cardinal is assigned a titular Church of Rome, a symbol of their being part of the Diocese of Rome, whose bishop is the pope, successor of the first Bishop of Rome, St. Peter.
Pope Francis announced the names of 13 new cardinals during the midday “Angelus” prayer on Oct. 25.
Four of these cardinals are above 80 years of age and are not eligible to vote for a new pope in the case of a conclave.
The Catholic Church has now a total 229 cardinals, of which 101 are 80 or above.
While Europe still has the largest share of cardinal electors, with 41 percent, it is down from 52 percent in 2013 when Pope Francis became the first Latin-American pope.
The nine new electors come from Italy, Malta, Rwanda, the United States, the Philippines, Chile, Brunei and Mexico.
The new cardinals later paid a courtesy visit to 93-year-old former Pope Benedict XVI, who lives on the Vatican grounds.