VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Sunday told six prelates newly elevated to the rank of cardinal that all Catholic leaders should shun the “worldly logic of power” and stick to spreading the gospel.
The pope presided at a solemn mass in St Peter’s Basilica with the six men from the United States, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Lebanon and Colombia the day after they became cardinals at a ceremony known as a consistory.
“To be disciples of Jesus, then, means not letting ourselves be allured by the worldly logic of power, but bringing into the world the light of truth and God’s love,” he said.
“To you, dear and venerable brother cardinals - I think in particular of those created yesterday - is entrusted this demanding responsibility: to bear witness to the kingdom of God, to the truth.”
The new cardinals are American Archbishop James Michael Harvey, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, a major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara rite in India, Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon, and Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja.
Indian women at the mass wore saris and African women wore traditional dresses. Prayers were read in Arabic, Hindi, Yoruba and Tagalog as well as English, French and Italian.
“I think it’s about time that we have a diverse and more colourful bunch of cardinals,” said Leslie Ryan, a pilgrim who attended the consistory.
“If you want to bring all the Catholics together you need to have a diverse group of cardinals and it’s about time.”
The choice of the cardinals, ranging in age from 53 to 72, looked like an attempt to counter criticism that he has in the past neglected the needs of the developing world.
All six are “cardinal electors”, under 80 years old and therefore eligible to enter a conclave that will one day choose Benedict’s successor.
Two of the new cardinals, Boutros Rai, 72, of Lebanon, and Onaiyekan, 68, of Nigeria, are from countries with significant Muslim populations.
In Nigeria, which is about 50 percent Muslim, the Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds of people in attacks since 2009. Many of the attacks have been on Christians and churches.
“The Boko Haram, the young men who are throwing bombs all over the place in Nigeria, have been rejected by the mainstream of Islam in Nigeria. But somehow, the way the Islamic religion is organised there’s nobody who can tell them ‘Stop it!',” Onaiyekan told Reuters in an interview.
“So the rest of us are actually, you can say, suffering because of the inner difficulties within Islam. But that’s the reality we have to live with and we are doing our best. What is important for people to know is that it is not a case of Nigerian Muslims at war with Nigerian Christians.”
Tagle, 55, of Manila, heads the largest Catholic church in Asia, where Christians are minorities in most countries.
“I think we have been used to a humble and hidden type of existence and it doesn’t lead us to pessimism,” he told Reuters.
“Being a small minority doesn’t mean the church is dead,” he said. “Of course, who doesn’t want the numbers to increase? But there are things in life that are not measured only by numbers.”
Editing by Andrew Roche