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‘Receive the ring from the hand of Peter’


Pope Benedict XVI places the cardinal’s ring on the hand of Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley. Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

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VATICAN CITY — The day following the Ordinary Public Consistory that elevated the archbishop of Boston to the College of Cardinals, the new cardinals concelebrated a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. During the Mass they were given their cardinals’ rings, a sign of their faithfulness to the Holy Father.

For a second day, St. Peter’s Square was filled with dignitaries, clergy members, friends and family of the new cardinals, this time not waving their nations’ flags, but holding banners wishing their shepherds well. In the center aisle hung a large banner that read, “Congratulations Cardinal O’Malley. We love you. Archdiocese of Boston.”

With their golden chasubles gleaming in the sun, the new cardinals processed together with the Holy Father. As during the procession into the consistory, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley stopped to greet well-wishers along the way.

“Today the Mother Church presents the new cardinals,” Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed, explaining that during the Mass each new cardinal would be given a ring “as a sign of fidelity to Peter.”

The rings, similar in design to those given by Pope John Paul II, depict the resurrection of Jesus as described by the Gospel of John. Each of the new cardinals received the golden ring from the hand of the pontiff.

Following the readings — which were proclaimed in English and Spanish, and the Gospel — which was sung in Latin — Pope Benedict delivered his homily.

“For me it is a source of great joy to preside at this concelebration with the new cardinals after yesterday’s consistory,” he began, “and I consider it providential that it should take place on the liturgical Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.”

“In the Incarnation of the Son of God, in fact, we recognize the origins of the Church. Everything began from there,” he declared. “From generation to generation, the wonder evoked by this ineffable mystery never ceases.”

The Virgin Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s message was because “she accepts with personal generosity the wave of God’s love poured out upon her,” Pope Benedict explained.

“What an abundance of light we can draw from this mystery for our lives as ministers of the Church! You above all, dear new cardinals, what great sustenance you can receive for your mission as the eminent ‘senate’ of Peter’s successor,” he stressed.

The Holy Father then spoke of his “beloved predecessor” Pope John Paul II through whose pontificate “the presence of Mary as Mother and Queen of the Church was made manifest to the eyes of all.”

“Everything in the Church, every institution and ministry, including that of Peter and his successors is included under the Virgin’s mantle, within the grace-filled horizon of her ‘yes’ to God’s will,” he stated.

The relationship between the chair of Peter and the Virgin Mary is “found in the symbol of the ring which I am about to consign to you,” Pope Benedict said.

“The ring is always a nuptial sign,” he continued. “The ring which I confer upon you today...is intended to confirm and strengthen that commitment arising once more from a nuptial gift, a reminder to you that first and foremost you are intimately united with Christ so as to accomplish your mission as bridegrooms of the Church.”

“May your acceptance of the ring be for you a renewal of your ‘yes,’ your ‘Here I am,’ addressed both to the Lord Jesus who chose you and constituted you, and to His holy Church, which you are called to serve with the love of a spouse,” the Holy Father prayed.

Pope Benedict then exhorted all those gathered to demonstrate Christian love. “Those who love forget about themselves and place themselves at the service of their neighbor. Here we have the image and model of the Church,” he asserted.

“This is the path along which I chose to launch my pontificate,” he continued, citing his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.” He invited everyone “to build up the Church in charity as a ‘community of love.’”

The Holy Father concluded his homily inviting “all of you, priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful, to join together in invoking the Holy Spirit, praying that the College of Cardinals may be ever more ardent in pastoral charity, so as to help the whole Church to radiate Christ’s love in the world.”

Immediately following the homily, each of the new cardinals approached the Holy Father, who placed the ring on his finger as he recited, “Receive the ring from the hand of Peter and, with the love of the Prince of the Apostles, may your love to the Church be reinforced.”

After the last of the cardinals received his ring, Pope Benedict enjoined them to “go to your individual nations and churches and to your titular churches in the heart of this city...preach the Gospel, build up the Holy Church of God, bless all people and always speak of the peace of Christ.”

Once the Rite of the Rings concluded, the entire assembly sang the Nicene Creed. Then the universal prayers of the Church were proclaimed in French, Korean, Dagaari, German, Slovenian and Portuguese.

As the Liturgy of the Eucharist commenced, the 15 new cardinals approached the altar, to concelebrate the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

Hundreds of priests fanned out throughout the assembly in order to distribute Holy Communion. The pontiff himself distributed communion to several invited guests, including Cardinal O’Malley’s stepmother, Claire O’Malley, and his sister Mary Alexsovich.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the new cardinals processed through the main doors of St. Peter’s Basilica, before retiring to the Paul VI hall within the Vatican walls for a celebratory dinner with the entire College of Cardinals and the Holy Father.

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