2013-03-19 Vatican RadioOn Tuesday 19th of March the day the Church remembers Saint Joseph, less than a week after his election as 265th Successor of Peter , Pope Francis was back in Saint Peter’s Square.
It was 9.30 on the dot and a glorious sunny day and this first Jesuit and first Latin American Pope was there amid crowds, thousand strong, to celebrate the liturgical rite of inauguration of his Petrine Ministry.
The Sacred College of Cardinals to elect him to the papacy – formed a crown around him - eager to present him to the Universal Church as the Chief Shepherd . And it with them in procession – to the sound of the singing of the Litany of the Saints that Pope Francis emerged from the great door of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Wearing white vestments he made his way to the altar – removing the two pointed mitre symbolising the old and new testaments and putting down the pastoral staff he was carrying.
Despite the crowds there was prayerful silence in Saint Peter’s Square
Christians and non-Christians alike had come eager to witness the rite in which the Bishop of Rome was to receive the two liturgical symbols of his Petrine Ministry: the fisherman’s ring in gold-plated silver representing the Apostle Peter and the keys . And the pallium, a narrow stole of white wool made out of lamb's wool and sheep wool and embroidered with five red silk crosses symbolizing the five wounds of Christ , held in place by three pins representing the three nails of Christ.
The celebration began with the pallium being placed on the pope’s shoulders by the proto-deacon Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, representing the culminating moment of this inauguration. It had been symbolically laid out over the tomb of Saint Peter overnight – as a sign of the continuity of the papacy.
It was there by the tomb of Saint Peter that Pope Francis had gone before appearing in the square accompanied by the Patriarchs of the Oriental Churches.It was to be a moment of private prayer by the tomb of the first Pope in history.
The gesture of the placing of the pallium was followed by the placing of the fisherman’s ring on the Pope’s finger by the dean of the College of Cardinals , Angelo Sodano
And when it came to the homily Pope Francis began by pointing to the Feast of Saint Joseph, remarking on that continuity with his predecessor the See of Peter of whom it is the name day.
He then greeted all present mentioning in a special way the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities as well as representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities.
Pope Francis then highlighted the role of Saint Joseph as protector.: " Joseph is a "protector" because he is able to hear God's voice and be guided by his will...In him dear friends we learn how to respond to God's call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others , so that we can protect creation! The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings, Pope Francis prompted, fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women."
Please, he pleaded: " I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!"
Pope Francis then remarked how his ministry as Bishop of Rome, as Successor of Peter began with this inauguration mass on the Feast of Saint Joseph. A role which he elaborated also involves a certain power : " Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison Only those who serve with love are able to protect!"
Pope Francis then pointed to the current world context: " Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God."
Finally he outlined for all present the service the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out : " To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves.."
A service he added, to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us !"
Pope Francis' homily on the day of the inauguration of his Petrine ministry ended with a specific request : " Pray for me , he said, that the Holy Spirit may may accompany my Petrine ministry."
I'm Veronica Scarisbrick