VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, at Mass Friday with his newest cardinals, described being in contact with “real human dramas” and people’s “concrete existence” as integral to the Catholic church’s mission.
Francis celebrated the Mass in a sun-baked St. Peter’s Square, filled with some 30,000 faithful, to mark the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul.
In his homily, he cautioned Christians against keeping their distance from “human misery,” and urged them to avoid “empty” forms of service and compassion for people.
Francis said the Catholic church must be “free from grand illusions that fail to sink their roots in the life of God’s faithful people.”
He urged Christians to avoid pretexts that keep them “far from real human dramas, which preserve us from contact with other people’s concrete existence and, in the end, from knowing the revolutionary power of God’s tender love.”
Francis also decried “empty forms of triumphalism: forms empty of love, service, compassion, empty of people.”
Among the prelates at Mass were 14 churchmen whom Francis elevated to the rank of cardinal a day earlier in a solemn ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.
As part of the feast day’s traditions, Francis before Mass blessed the palliums, strips of soft wool spun into narrow stoles by nuns in a Rome convent using the wool of two lambs.
At the end of the service, he presented a box, wrapped in a gold ribbon and containing a pallium, to each of some 30 churchmen who have been named metropolitan archbishops since the previous June 29 ceremony.
With roots in early Christian times, the pallium symbolizes, among other things, the role of a bishop as good shepherd caring for his flock.
In the front rows in the square were official delegations from the homelands of the new cardinals. After shedding his red vestments, whose colour paid tribute to the martyrdom on Peter and Paul, Francis in his white cassock cheerfully greeted many of these VIPs, including Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Another tradition has seen a delegation of Orthodox Christians attend the Mass. Francis said he “welcomed with affection” those sent in the name of the ecumenical patriarch, “dear brother Bartholomew.” He called the delegation’s presence “a further sign of the path of communion and brotherhood, which, thanks to God, characterizes our churches.”