US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Show tenderness, pope urges at installation Mass

By Father Robert Imbelli | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

After yesterday's drenching, wind-swept rain, Brother Sun emerged gloriously today to shine on the Mass of Installation of Francis as Bishop of Rome.

The joyful throngs swept well beyond Piazza San Pietro to stretch along the Via della Conciliazione almost to the Tiber.

It was particularly appropriate, said the pope, that his installation take place on the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the universal church, since his own Petrine ministry embraced a care for the church universal.

As has become his custom, Pope Francis delivered his homily not from the papal throne but from the ambo, from which, moments before, the gospel had been chanted in resonant Greek.

At the beginning of the homily, Francis recalled, to prolonged applause, that today is the name day of his illustrious predecessor, Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger.

In a strong, rhetorically effective voice, Francis spoke of St. Joseph as the guardian of Jesus and Mary, and hence of the church--a guardianship marked by humility and fidelity. Joseph was able to interpret events and take the necessary action, because he was always attentive in his listening to God.

We all are called, said the pope, to imitate Joseph: to become guardians, care-givers. To care for one another, especially the most fragile and needy, the very young and the elderly. Indeed, we are called to the care of all creation.

To do so effectively, we need, said this son of St. Ignatius, to watch over our hearts, lest envy or greed take root there. We should not fear to show tenderness toward each other, for tenderness does not denote weakness, but strength.

The Petrine ministry which Francis assumes is, indeed, one of power. But it is the power, he insisted, of service, of responding to the Lord's command to Peter: "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep."

Let us together, said Pope Francis, by our witness and action, allow the star of hope to shine for people everywhere. So, as he began his homily with reference to Benedict XVI, so Francis concluded with what, to these ears, seemed a clear evocation of his predecessor's great encyclical Spe Salvi: We are saved in hope.

Photo of a crowd gathered in Piazza San Pietro, which served as the site of Pope Francis’ installation Mass.

Flickr photo cc by BostonCatholic