A Red Hat Day for An Augustinian Affiliate
Pope Francis created thirteen new cardinals on Saturday, 28 November, 2020, in a simple ceremony that lasted about forty minutes. The formal Address to the Pope was given by Cardinal-designate, Bishop Mario Grech, the Augustinian affiliate who currently lives in the headquarters of the Order in Rome and is Secretary to the Synod of Bishops. A number of friars were present to witness the event, as well as the three friars from the papal sacristy involved in the ceremony itself.
In his Address, Bishop Mario, Emeritus Bishop of Gozo, Malta, gave a short but striking summary of the kind of Church being encouraged by Pope Francis: a Church that ‘journeys together’, ‘goes forth’, and that ‘listens’. The Church is the People of God as a whole and not a sum of individuals. All the baptised together exercise an infallibility in credendo, in believing. If the whole Church is journeying together, then it needs to be a ‘synodal’, a listening Church, with the laity, clergy, bishops and pope listening to one another. Then the Church can go forth, better equipped to face a world in crisis on many fronts, not least the pandemic.
Two of the cardinals, from the Philippines and Brunei, were not able to participate because of travel restrictions. Instead, they and some other cardinals not present witnessed the event by means of Zoom on large screens. Each cardinal-designate came forward to receive their symbols of office, the red biretta - the famous ‘red hat’ - a ring, and a scroll from Pope Francis. One candidate, however, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan Capuchin friar, chose to wear his simple brown habit instead of the striking red soutane and not to become a bishop.
In his words of encouragement to the new cardinals, Pope Francis told them to ‘stay on God’s road’, reminding them that the scarlet colour of their robes is the colour of blood and not to see it as a sign of ‘eminence’. Even as cardinals he urged them to be like ‘the pastor close to the people’.The following day, Cardinal Mario joined some Augustinians who on Sundays help serve breakfast for the homeless in a nearby hostel.
On behalf of the Curia community, Fr Alejandro, the Prior General, gave a pectoral cross to Cardinal Grech at a special lunch in his honour, at which his parents and younger brother were present. The cross contained a relic, a piece of bone, of St Augustine. He was clearly moved by the gift, as he feels very close to the Order as well as being an affiliate. He continues to live in the Curia community for the time being - and helping to clear dishes at the meals - until his accommodation provided by the Vatican is ready.