A St. Peter’s Square bathed in sunlight welcomed 21 new cardinals into the College on Saturday morning, September 30, 2023. A small but intimate crowd from all over the world cheered and waved flags as the names were called out under a cloudless blue sky. Pope Francis then encouraged these new cardinals to be “evangelizers who have been evangelized, not functionaries.”
“We are evangelizers to the extent we cherish in our hearts the wonder and gratitude of having been evangelized, even of being evangelized, because this is really a gift always present, that must be continually renewed in our memories and in faith,” the Pontiff said. “You new Cardinals have come from different parts of the world, and the same Spirit that made the evangelization of your peoples fruitful now renews in you your vocation and mission in and for the Church.”
The 21 new cardinals, of which 18 are under 80 years old and thus electors in case of a conclave, came from countries across the world such as South Sudan, Malaysia, Spain, and Argentina. In fact, one by one they walked up to the Pontiff and knelt before him as he placed the “biretta,” a squared red cap, on their heads and gave them their cardinal’s ring, which symbolizes their closeness with the Chair of Peter. The new cardinals are also assigned a Church in Rome to show their connection to the Bishop of Rome.
Pentecost is “not a thing of the past”
During his homily, Pope Francis cited the story of Pentecost while suggesting a “role reversal,” where he identified the cardinals not as the Apostles, but as the “Parthians, Medes, Elamites” who heard the Spirit-filled Apostles speaking, each in their own language. The Pope thus invited them to “rediscover with amazement the gift of having received the Gospel ‘in our own tongues,’ as the Jews said.”
“Think back with gratitude on the gift of having been evangelized and having been drawn from various peoples who, each in their own time received the Kerygma, the proclamation of the mystery of salvation, and in welcoming it, were baptized in the Holy Spirit and became part of the Church. Mother Church, who speaks all languages, is One and is Catholic,” the Pope explained.
“Brothers and sisters, dearest cardinals, Pentecost – like the Baptism of each one of us – is not a thing of the past; it is a creative act that God continually renews,” he said.” The Church – and each of her members – lives this ever-present mystery. […] The Church, and every baptized member, lives the today of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit.”
The globe at St. Peter’s Square
As each new cardinal stood to Pope Francis calling his name, the crowd of around 12,000 people erupted in cheers. For South Sudan’s new cardinal, Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, the first for this country established in 2011, a chorus of shouts was heard rebounding across St. Peter’s Square’s famous colonnade.
The space in front of the Basilica is also adorned with flowers, shrubs, and trees, in light of an ecumenical vigil for the beginning of the Synod to be held in the evening of September 30.
New American Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, Prefect for the Dicastery for Bishops, also gave a short speech at the beginning of the ceremony and highlighted the Synod as an “important sign” for the Church. Speaking to the Holy Father, he said, “You reminded us that it is necessary to learn to listen like the saints, like St. Francis of Assisi who listened to the voice of God, the voice of the poor, the voice of the sick, the voice of nature.”
See profiles of the new cardinals here.
Read the Pope’s full homily here.