Pope Francis’ appointment of new cardinals from distant and impoverished countries has helped bring the topic of pastoral care for those struggling in poverty to Vatican discussions.
“I suppose looking back now, it’s not surprising that he chose cardinals from the poorest countries in the world. Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, and Haiti — to have cardinals from those countries, we’d never have thought in the past of having those cardinals,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of the United Kingdom told CNA Feb. 22. “But he said, ‘No, I want to hear the voice of the poor.’ So it was surprising, but I think I understand.”
Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Haiti, who was appointed in the Feb. 22 consistory, said that he felt that his new office helps “continue to show the importance of our Pope for the people of Haiti.”
“That means to be with him, to bring to our Pope the situation of our country,” he told CNA.
Haiti is one of world’s poorest countries. It is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people and left over one million homeless.
For Cardinal Langlois, being given the red hat means “to be in the service of God, (and) of the people. So for us in Haiti, that means we have to continue to serve the people, and serve the Church around the world.”
Pope Francis’ homily at Mass Feb. 23 also focused on the importance of serving God and the Church, particularly through a life of sanctity.
“Dear brother cardinals, the Lord Jesus and mother Church ask us to witness with greater zeal and ardor to these ways of being holy,” he said, encouraging them to have a spirit of “goodness, forgiveness, service.”
The pope went on to stress that entrance into the College of Cardinals means a life of service, not privilege. “A cardinal enters the Church of Rome, the Church, not a royal court,” he insisted.
“May we always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the Cross so that we could be ‘channels’ through which his charity might flow. This is the attitude of a cardinal, this is how he acts.”
After Mass during his Angelus message, Pope Francis said the Church “entrusts the testimony of this pastoral lifestyle to the new cardinals,” adding that their presence at the consistory “offered a valuable opportunity to experience the catholicity, the universality, of the Church.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor expressed a similar feeling regarding the series of meetings that took place among the cardinals in the days preceding the consistory.
“One or two of them have spoken, these cardinals who are coming from these very poor countries. They’ll get used to these meetings in time and be able to speak, as it were, with more experience. But even to see them there, it was very good.”
The pastoral concerns for those in very impoverished circumstances are often different than in other areas of the Church. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila told CNA that the biggest challenge facing families in the Philippines is poverty.
“We don’t have any divorce, but what separates families is poverty. People look for jobs elsewhere. They leave their villages, they go to the big cities, they go abroad, so even without the divorce law, de facto there is separation because of migration,” he explained.
“I have appealed to dioceses that have accepted Filipino migrant workers to support them pastorally,” he said, noting that “the pastoral care of family, of a person, who is married, but whose family is not physically present,” presents a special challenge.
“How do you provide pastoral care so that they will remain faithful to their spouses and their children left behind? It’s an approach to family life which is quite unique.”
Cardinal George Alencherry, who heads the India-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, also expressed concern for migration due to poverty.
“The families are split up, the children — either for studies, or for a job — are going in different parts of the world, and that unity of the family is broken,” he said. “That’s a big problem.”
“There are many who are poor, in our country, and how to attend to the needs of the poor — all these are problems,” he added.
When asked if there was hope of a solution, Cardinal Alencherry replied, “God is always rich, and we will find ways. They may not be 100 percent perfect ways, but we will try in our own way what we can do.”
Cardinal Tagle also expressed hope in the face of difficulties, explaining that in the Philippines, “you also see how the extended family supports especially the children who are left behind, so the ‘traditional’ clan, the traditional extended family, is serving its purpose. And we rejoice where something, in a way disappears, another reality is present to take on responsibility, especially for the children.”
—Catholic News Agency