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Experiencing firsthand the new Cardinals’ elevation

On Saturday, Nov 19th, the ceremony to elevate the 17 new Cardinals was to take place in the Vatican.

“There were long queues at the entrance to St Peter’s Basilica already at 8am. There is a strict security scanning for all who enter St Peter’s Square or the Basilica,” recalls Fr. Victor Roche, the general-secretary of Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG/SI.

“We who are delegates of the new Cardinals were able to get special seats. The Basilica was full and the Ceremony started at 11am with the Latin hymn beautifully sung by the Vatican choir. It is a time-honoured ceremony to elevate new cardinals.”

 The new Cardinals, dressed in red robes as “Princes of the Church”,  after reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him.

The pope gave each one a three-cornered red hat, telling them that the colour symbolises “your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood” for the Catholic Church.

They were also handed a gold ring of their high office and a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing their "titular church" in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the Pope's diocese.

“Then each one walked to the place where some 150 cardinals were standing and greeted each of them personally with a fraternal embrace,” says Fr Victor.

In his homily, the Pope said: “In God there are no enemies. There are only brothers and sisters to love. All people are embraced by God's love. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.

“Just as God loves and forgives the pope and the cardinals for their sinfulness, so they must love and forgive others, undergoing the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn,” continues the Pope.

“We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin color, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches,” he said.

The 17 new cardinals come from 14 countries. Pope Francis is famed for wanting to reach out to far-flung dioceses of the periphery, states Fr Victor.

“Only 16 of the new Cardinals were present for the ceremony. Archbishop John Ribat of PNG was also one of them. The Vatican said Cardinal Sebastian Koto Khoarai, 87, the retired bishop of Mohale's Hoek, Lesotho, was created a Cardinal although he was unable to travel to Rome.

“Thirteen of them are under 80 and therefore eligible to take part in the next secret conclave to elect the new Pope, the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. They are known as cardinal electors.”

Fr Victor said after the consistory, Pope Francis and the new Cardinals hopped in vans for a short ride to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens.

The retired pope greeted each cardinal, thanked them for stopping by, and assured them, “My prayers will accompany you always."

After the ceremony, His Eminence John Ribat came to the waiting PNG delegates in St Peter’s square for photo sessions. Among them were priests, sisters and lay people living in Rome.

“There were special visitors: Max Rai, the Permanent Representative of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations; Winnie Kiap, the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; Joshua Kalinoe, the PNG Ambassador to Belgium and to the Vatican.”

Among the Church representatives, there were: Archbishop Francesco Panfilo of Rabaul, Bishop Rochus Tatamai of Bereina, Fr. Ben Fleming, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Port Moresby, Fr. Mark McDonald, the Superior General of the MSCs and his team, Fr. Rozario Menezes, the President of the Federation of Religious of PNG/SI, Fr. Victor Roche, the General Secretary of Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG/SI, Zita and Blaise Kuemlangan of Manus but living in Rome and many sisters, brothers, priests who study or serve in Italy.

In the afternoon at 4pm, there was a gathering of the new Cardinals in Paul VI hall in the Vatican for meet and greet.

(Picture courtesy of Liam Dunne SVD)
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