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Benedict XVI's Homily at Consistory

"I Am Counting on You, Dear Brother Cardinals ..."

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 25, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Friday during the ordinary public consistory to elevate 15 new cardinals.

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St. Peter's Square

Venerable Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

On this vigil of the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the penitential mood of Lent makes way for the feast: Today, the College of Cardinals is to gain 15 new members. To you in particular, my dear brothers, whom I have the joy of raising to the cardinalate, I address a most sincere and cordial greeting, and I thank Archbishop William Joseph Levada for the sentiments and good wishes that he has expressed to me in the name of all of you.

I am also pleased to greet the other cardinals present, the venerable patriarchs, the bishops, the priests, the men and women religious and the many lay faithful, especially family members who have come here to honor the new cardinals in prayer and Christian joy.

With special gratitude I welcome the distinguished civil and governmental authorities, representing various nations and institutions.

The ordinary public consistory is an event that manifests most eloquently the universal nature of the Church, which has spread to every corner of the world in order to proclaim to all people the Good News of Christ our Savior. The beloved Pope John Paul II celebrated nine consistories in all, thus contributing effectively to the renewal of the College of Cardinals along the lines established by the Second Vatican Council and the Servant of God Pope Paul VI.

If it is true that down the centuries the College of Cardinals has changed in many ways, nevertheless the substance and essential nature of this important ecclesial body remain unaltered. Its ancient roots, its historical development and its composition today make it truly a kind of "senate," called to cooperate closely with the Successor of Peter in accomplishing the tasks connected with his universal apostolic ministry.

The Word of God, which has just been proclaimed to us, takes us back in time. With the Evangelist Mark we return to the very origin of the Church and specifically to the origin of the Petrine ministry. With the eyes of our hearts we see the Lord Jesus once again, to whose praise and glory this act in which we are engaged is totally directed and dedicated.

The words he speaks to us recall to our minds the definition of the Roman Pontiff so dear to the heart of St. Gregory the Great: "Servus servorum Dei." When Jesus explains to the Twelve Apostles that their authority will have to be exercised quite differently from that of "the rulers of the Gentiles," he expresses it in terms of service: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant ('diákonos'), and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all ('doulos')" (Mark 10:43-44).

Total and generous availability to serve others is the distinctive mark of those in positions of authority in the Church, because it was thus for the Son of Man, who came "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Although he was God, or one might even say driven by his divinity, he assumed the form of a servant -- "formam servi" -- as is wonderfully expressed in the hymn to Christ contained in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-7).

The first "servant of the servants of God" is therefore Jesus. After him, and united with him, come the Apostles; and among these, in a particular way, Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the responsibility of guiding his flock. The Pope must be the first to make himself the servant of all.

Clear testimony to this is found in the first reading today, which puts before us Peter's exhortation to the "presbyters" and elders of the community (cf. 1 Peter 5:1). It is an exhortation given with the authority that comes to the apostle from the fact that he is a witness of the sufferings of Christ, the Good Shepherd. We sense that Peter's words come from his personal experience of service to God's flock, but first and foremost they are derived from direct experience of Jesus' own behavior: the way he served to the point of self-sacrifice, the way he humbled himself even unto death, death on a cross, trusting in the Father alone, who subsequently raised him on high.

Peter, like Paul, was utterly "conquered" by Christ -- "comprehensus sum a Christo Iesu" (cf. Philippians 3:12) -- and like Paul he can exhort the elders with full authority because it is no longer he who lives, but Christ lives in him -- "vivo autem iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus" (Galatians 2:20).

Yes, venerable and dear brothers, these words of the Prince of the Apostles apply particularly to ...

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