Pope Francis urges new cardinals to imitate Christ’s compassionate heart

Pope Francis places the red biretta on Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot Oct. 5, 2019. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis created 13 new cardinals Saturday, encouraging each of them to ask for the grace to have a compassionate heart like Christ.

“The readiness of a cardinal to shed his own blood – as signified by the scarlet color of your robes – is secure if it is rooted in this awareness of having been shown compassion and in the ability to show compassion in turn,” Pope Francis said at the consistory Oct. 5.

“Today, let us implore, through the intercession of the apostle Peter, the grace to have a compassionate heart, in order to be witnesses of the One who has looked with favor upon us, who chose us, consecrated us and sent us to bring to everyone his Gospel of salvation,” he said in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The new cardinals come from Africa, Europe, North and Central America, and Asia. Pope Francis said in the announcement of their selection Sept. 1 that the diverse origins of these cardinals “expresses the missionary vocation of the Church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people on earth."

Pope Francis placed a red hat on each cardinal’s head and said: “To the glory of almighty God and the honor of the Apostolic See, receive the scarlet biretta as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of the Holy Roman Church.”


Each of the newly elevated cardinals received a ring, and was assigned a titular church, tying them to the Diocese of Rome.

Among the recipients of the red hat was Canadian Jesuit Michael Czerny, whom Pope Francis ordained a bishop in the basilica the day prior. Cardinal Czerny, the head of the Migrants and Refugees section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, chose a pectoral cross made of wood from a boat used by migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Two of the other new cardinals also work inside the Vatican: Spanish Archbishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; and Portuguese Archbishop José Tolentino Mendonca, librarian of the Holy Roman Church.

Pope Francis used the word “compassion” 25 times in his homily message for the new cardinals.

“Unless I feel that I am the object of God’s compassion, I cannot understand his love,” the pope said. “Concretely: am I compassionate towards this or that brother or sister, that bishop, that priest or do I constantly tear them down by my attitude of condemnation, of indifference?”

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From Africa, Pope Francis elevated Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Archbishop Cristobal Lopez Romero of Rabat in Morocco to be cardinals.

Ten of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and thereby eligible to vote in a future conclave. Among them are Archbishops Jean Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, Italy, Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta in Indonesia, Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez of Havana, Cuba, and Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

“In a particular way, I ask this of you, brother cardinals …  do you have a lively awareness of always having been preceded and accompanied by His mercy?” Pope Francis said at the consistory. “This awareness was always present in the immaculate heart of the Virgin Mary, who praises God as her Savior, for he ‘looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”

Pope Francis also elevated three bishops over the age of 80, and therefore ineligible to vote in a conclave, but who, he said, "have distinguished themselves for their service to the Church."

They are: Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, emeritus of Kaunas in Lithuania, he was arrested and persecuted under the Soviet regime; Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, emeritus of Nepte in Tunisia and a former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; and Bishop Eugenio Dal Corso, emeritus of Benguela in Angola, where he was a missionary.


Pope Francis and the new cardinals paid a visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery following the consistory.

According to the Vatican press office director Matteo Bruni, Benedict "reminded the new cardinals of the value of fidelity to the pope" and imparted a blessing together with Pope Francis.

The consistory was the sixth of Pope Francis’ pontificate. With the 13 new cardinals included, the number of voting cardinals comes to 128, and the number of non-voters to 100, for a total of 228 cardinals.

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.